Former Atascadero mayoral candidate takes plea deal in assault cases

Charles John Scovell, 37, pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Charles John Scovell, 37, pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges of assault with a deadly weapon. David Middlecamp

An Atascadero arborist who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014 struck a plea deal with prosecutors in several criminal cases Tuesday that could allow him to avoid prison — if he stays out of trouble.

Should he re-offend within five years, Charles Scovell could spend up to 14 years in state prison.

Scovell, 37, pleaded no contest to two charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon in two cases against him in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. He received five years of felony probation, and several other charges were dismissed.

Following the plea, he was released from County Jail, where he had been held since January. He must remain in a sober living facility until a July 28 progress hearing, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Thursday.

Scovell was facing DUI and hit-and-run charges for a March 2015 incident, in which he allegedly crashed his vehicle into a fence and a tree in Atascadero, injuring his passenger. During that case, he was again arrested Jan. 15 after a four-hour standoff with officers outside his home.

According to the Atascadero Police Department, officers responded to a report that someone was throwing beer bottles and assaulting a woman outside. When officers arrived to the home on the 1500 block of El Camino Real, Scovell ran inside — leaving the alleged victim on the ground — and refused to come out.

Officers set up a perimeter around the home when the woman told police that Scovell might be armed. Eventually, Scovell’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, went to the scene and persuaded his client to come out.

Scovell originally pleaded not guilty to charges including assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, threatening violence, false imprisonment, dissuading a witness and resisting an officer. In March, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy denied Funke-Bilu’s request to lower Scovell’s bail — set at $500,000 since his arrest — noting Scovell’s several ongoing criminal cases.

Funke-Bilu told Duffy that Scovell is “the nicest guy in the world,” but has recently developed serious substance abuse problems for which he wanted to seek treatment.

With his plea Tuesday, Scovell can avoid further jail or prison time if he successfully completes his probation without further violations. He is not allowed to contact his victim, use alcohol or drugs, or enter a bar for five years. He also must comply with terms of Adult Treatment Court, a court program for adults with mental health and counseling needs.

Should he violate his probation, by law, he must immediately be sentenced to seven years in state prison, Cunningham said.

However, under the terms of his release, should Scovell re-offend before his July hearing, a judge may sentence him to up to 14 years in state prison, Cunningham said.

Scovell ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the November 2014 general election against incumbent Tom O’Malley, securing more than 40 percent of the vote to O’Malley’s 59 percent; write-ins accounted for another 1 percent.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1