Arizona pair face jail time in SLO fight

A man and woman from Arizona accused of attacking a 26-year-old San Luis Obispo man near Cal Poly in December have pleaded no contest to felony assault with a deadly weapon and the enhanced penalty of causing great bodily injury.

Jeffery Miles Berrett, 25, and Meghan Britnie Gross, 24, entered their pleas in February after being accused of an attack against 26-year-old Philip Hauser in the early morning hours of Dec. 13 at the railroad tracks near Stenner Street.

Berrett has agreed to a yearlong term in County Jail, and Gross has agreed to 270 days in County Jail for their roles in the fight, according to lawyers involved with the case.

Gross and Berrett are scheduled to be sentenced in Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney’s court today at 8:30 a.m.

A no-contest plea results in a conviction without an admission of guilt, but the legal effect is similar to that of a guilty plea in felony cases.

In January, Estrada-Mullaney ruled that sufficient evidence was presented for charges of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon against the defendants.

But the plea bargain between Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham and defense attorneys Paul Phillips and Kenneth Cirisan stipulates dropping the robbery charge.

Hauser testified at the January hearing that he had attended a friend’s birthday party on Stenner Street near Cal Poly and, after a few drinks, was walking home about 4 a.m. on Dec. 13 when he had a discussion with Berrett and Gross — who were camping out near the tracks.

The three talked about religion; Hauser said he follows the Bible, and Berrett and Gross said they didn’t believe in God.

Hauser said he questioned them repeatedly, asking why they didn’t believe in God and “they got angrier and angrier.”

Hauser said he put his hands on Berrett first before the fight started “because he felt threatened.”

A fight ensued, in which, Hauser alleged, Berrett ended up on top of him, and a black dog that was with the pair bit him repeatedly.

He accused Gross of picking up a rock and hitting him on the head. Hauser alleged that Gross and Berrett attempted to steal his wallet after he tumbled down an embankment.

Hauser said the fight resulted in injuries, including scarring near his eye, a gash on top of his head that required staples, cuts on his body and a fractured nose.

“This is a case with unfortunate circumstances that had to do with a disagreement about a belief system,” Phillips said. “I think the plea bargain finds the middle ground, which was reached based on the strengths and weakness of the case for the prosecution and defense and the facts.”

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