No ‘pay-to-stay’ jail for SLO developer who assaulted girlfriend. He’ll do his time here

Four years after brutalizing a girlfriend in a 2015 attack, a former Central Coast developer was taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail on Thursday, despite his repeated efforts to serve his time at a “pay-to-stay” facility in Southern California because he claimed his life would be in danger here.

Ryan Joseph Wright — formerly Ryan Petetit of now-defunct PB Companies, before changing his name in May — was remanded to the custody of the Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning to serve about four months in County Jail.

Wright, 33, pleaded no contest in November 2018 to all five felony counts against him, including two counts of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, assault, false imprisonment, and dissuading a witness.

He was in court Thursday to ask a judge to do what the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t: allow him to serve his sentence at a public jail in Santa Ana that charges inmates for custody. Wright claimed he feared for his safety after receiving unspecified threats, court records show.

Judge Dodie Harman, however, agreed with the sheriff, and Wright was taken immediately into custody from the courtroom following the hearing.

The charges stem from his arrest on Thanksgiving Day 2015 for an incident four days earlier at his Arroyo Grande home, in which he assaulted his girlfriend while drunk, smashing her head through a glass window and not allowing her to call 911.

Wright’s victim reportedly fled to a family member’s house out of the area, then went to a hospital outside San Luis Obispo County, where medical officials contacted Arroyo Grande police.

Wright, who now lives in Los Angeles, had been out of custody during his proceedings after posting $50,000 bail, according to court records.

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SLO Sheriff's Office

“After a long time, the victim’s voice was finally heard and justice served,” said Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel, who prosecuted the case. “I hope her healing process can now begin and that Mr. Petetit uses this opportunity to rehabilitate himself.”

For his November felony convictions, Wright was sentenced Thursday to 270 days at San Luis Obispo County Jail.

Of that sentence, he’s likely to actually serve about half of that due to various automatic credits afforded to all California county jail inmates.

He had asked Harman to allow him to begin serving his sentence in Santa Ana on Friday.

‘Sincere concerns’ about safety

As recent as Thursday morning, Wright was pursuing the “pay-to-stay” option despite being denied at every step throughout the process.

In a motion filed Thursday, Wright’s attorney, Patrick Fisher, wrote that the San Luis Obispo County Jail was unsafe and unfit to house his client.

“Here, credible threats have been made against Mr. Wright’s safety should he serve his sentence at San Luis Obispo County Jail,” Fisher wrote, adding that the threats would be described in more detail in a private in-chambers conference held Thursday.

Fisher’s motion shows that Wright has for nearly a year been working to avoid serving his sentence locally. Even before his plea, the record reads, he applied for home detention with the Sheriff’s Office and “was told informally that he had been accepted into the program.”

He was later informed, after his no contest pleas, that his home detention request was denied, the motion says.

Wright’s subsequent appeal of the decision was rejected.

The motion says Wright then contacted the City of Santa Ana about staying in their facility, which according to their website offers “options to traditional incarceration.”

“Serving a commitment in jail is a highly disruptive experience and can negatively affect a person’s career and their ability to provide for their family. This can be especially true for small business owners, commission-based workers, and sole income earners,” the jail website reads.

According to the motion, Santa Ana accepted Wright into its program but said it would need authorization from the court.

On Aug. 29, Harman ruled Wright could stay at the facility as long as the Sheriff’s Office signed off.

But Sheriff Ian Parkinson declined to sign off that same day, saying it would ultimately be the decision of the court.

With no more options at his disposal, Fisher wrote that the plea to the court was Wright’s “final remedy to avoid the harm he fears he will suffer should he serve his sentence at San Luis Obispo County Jail.”

“This is not a man simply trying to position himself for easier custody time. This is a man with sincere concerns,” Fisher wrote in the motion.

In support of his motion, Fisher wrote that Wright has been complying with his probation terms, including attending a batterer’s program. Fisher inaccurately wrote that Wright also had “no prior criminal history,” despite several arrests over the course of several years and has been accused of violence against women in the past.

Jail logs showed Wright was booked into SLO County Jail at 1:11 p.m. with a projected release date of Feb. 14.

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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.