Crime

Former SLO developer avoids prison for smashing girlfriend’s head through a window

A former rising star in San Luis Obispo County’s real estate circles was sentenced to serve about nine months in County Jail Wednesday after pleading no contest in November to abusing his former girlfriend in a case that has dragged on for nearly four years.

Ryan Joseph Petetit — who has legally changed his name to Ryan Joseph Wright and now lives in Los Angeles — was sentenced following his November no contest pleas to five felony charges of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, assault, false imprisonment, and dissuading a witness.

Petetit was alleged in court documents to have choked his then-girlfriend and smashed her head through a bathroom window during a violent and drunken episode days before Thanksgiving 2015.

The woman, whom The Tribune is not identifying, wrote in a statement read aloud in court that she pressed charges and was willing to testify against him because she doesn’t want other women hurt.

“Anyone can become entrapped by abuse,” the prosecutor read from the statement as Petetit stood listening attentively at the podium. “Surviving your crimes and abuse have only made me stronger and my life richer.”

Jail time

Sentencing in the 2016 case has been delayed several times, most recently on June 27, when Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman allowed a final continuance due to paperwork issues related to Petetit’s then-pending name change.

Petetit, who stepped down as CEO of the now-defunct PB Companies LLC in December 2015, had entered into an open plea in November in which no deal had been struck between he and the District Attorney’s Office, who was represented in the years-long case by Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel.

He was facing a maximum of about five years in state prison. Should Harman have sentenced him to prison, Petetit would have been able to withdraw his plea and criminal proceedings could have resumed toward trial, his defense attorney, Patrick Fisher, previously told The Tribune.

Fisher had argued in court documents his client should be sentenced to five years of supervised probation.

But following a short in-chambers conference with both parties Wednesday, Harman sentenced Petetit to the maximum sentence in state prison, but stayed that sentence pending Petetit’s successful completion of five years formal probation, which includes attending a batterers’ program. He mus also pay about $6,000 in court-ordered restitution and fines.

In lieu of prison, Harman ordered that Petetit serve 270 days in San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he is to report Sept. 1. If he doesn’t successfully complete his probation requirements, he faces the possibility of prison time.

Imel said outside the courtroom that because the offenses are considered violent, Petetit will not be eligible for release from jail prior to serving 85 percent of his term, or close to eight months.

Though Imel had asked that Petetit be remanded to jail immediately following his hearing, Harman noted that he’s been out of custody for almost four years without any problems and granted his surrender date due to employment and other issues.

The time will also allow Petetit to apply for alternative sentencing such as monitored house arrest, for which he is eligible, Harman said. The Sheriff’s Office will ultimately decide if he’s eligible.

Harman noted that Petetit will have to have completed his custody time in San Luis Obispo County before he can request that his probation be transferred to Los Angeles County.

‘Moving on’

Petetit made no statement in court. His attorney noted to the judge that since his arrest, Petetit has voluntarily attended substance abuse treatment and private therapy. A Probation Department report also found he was at low risk of re-offending, Fisher said; that report was not immediately available following the hearing.

Imel told Harman that the victim in the case is “moving on” with her life. In a longstanding case with “a lot of twists and turns,” the prosecutor noted that the best thing to happen for all parties was Petetit “(taking) responsibility” and pleading no contest to all charges.

Following his sentencing in this case, Petetit was scheduled for a trial setting conference in a separate misdemeanor public intoxication case from 2014. Harman accepted a motion from Imel to dismiss that case in the interest of justice.

In addition to his criminal cases, Petetit is named as defendant in four ongoing civil lawsuits, three of which concern his business dealings and one of which was filed by another former girlfriend over alleged domestic abuse.

A restitution hearing for Petetit’s victim in Wednesday’s case is scheduled in San Luis Obispo court Sept. 26.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.
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