Joetopia

SLO men who battered women are tough guys — until they get a jail sentence. Then they whine

I have zero tolerance and even less sympathy for tough-guy men who beat up women and then cry for leniency when they’re finally held just a little bit accountable for their behavior.

Such is the case with Ryan Wright, the batterer formerly known as Ryan Petetit who this week was carted off to San Luis Obispo County Jail for choking his girlfriend, smashing her head through a window, throwing her into a closet and slamming her head against the ground three times, according to her account.

If you don’t recall all the details of the case, which has been awaiting a resolution for four years, police say Wright drank heavily on the day of the November 2015 assault, first at a birthday party and then at an Arroyo Grande restaurant, where he also bought drinks for women other than his girlfriend.

When the two got home and she questioned him about his less-than-chivalrous behavior, he exploded in a fit of violence, even threatening her at one point by saying, “You’re not going to call the cops either. I have friends that are cops,” according to the police report.

That left her so scared, she drove to her mother’s home in Watsonville, before going to the hospital for treatment.

That’s how quickly she wanted to get away from this guy.

She had good motivation too, because it apparently wasn’t the first time Wright assaulted a woman he was dating. This girlfriend said it had happened before, and she wasn’t the only one.

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San Luis Obispo developer Ryan Petetit, who has since changed his name to Ryan Wright, listens in court during his second arraignment in September 2016, where he initially pleaded not guilty to felony domestic violence charges. He eventually pleaded no contest to all five counts. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

In 2012, police in Santa Barbara were called to Wright’s hotel room and found his then-girlfriend crying on the floor with red marks on her neck. But she declined to press charges.

In 2013, police responded to a call involving Wright outside a bar in Pismo Beach, where they found the same girlfriend with injuries of apparent battering. The district attorney did eventually file a misdemeanor charge, but it was dismissed.

All this is to say that Ryan Wright gets no benefit of the doubt and deserves no special treatment.

Yet there he was again in court on Thursday, begging Judge Dodie Harman to pretty please let him serve his already meager four-month sentence in a cushy “pay-to-stay” facility in Santa Ana.

Why?

Because, according to his attorney, he’s received threats and is afraid to do his time in the regular jail in the county where he did his crime.

To both their credit, neither Sheriff Ian Parkinson or Judge Harman would have any of it, and so Wright will have to brave the harsh conditions of the SLO County lockup, where I have all the confidence that Parkinson and his staff can keep him safe.

Bravery will likely be an unfamiliar emotion for Wright, who has proven himself to be undeserving of that description time and again.

It’s pretty galling to hear a guy who chokes and slaps women suddenly act all meek and helpless in the face of his punishment.

To be honest, Wright’s lucky he’ll only spend a few months behind bars, where I sincerely hope he experiences no violence the likes of which he unleashed on his victim.

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Chris Olcott lost his job as a San Luis Obispo building inspector after he was jailed for knocking out a women at a bar in Avila Beach. City of San Luis Obispo

To put it in perspective, he’ll probably serve only one month more than Sherry Gong, whose crime of embezzling $32,000 from Atascadero’s high school band is far less grievous than the five felonies to which Wright pleaded no contest.

He’ll serve three months more than bar brawler Chris Olcott, another woman beater who got off with a light, plea-bargained sentence and also played the scared-to-go-to-jail card.

Olcott did get his wish granted and ended up spending just a month in a “pay-to-stay” jail in Seal Beach.

Both of these guys would be wise to stay away from the bottle and think seriously about the way they’ve lived their lives.

They should be glad California’s sentencing guidelines didn’t hit them harder.

If it were up to me, I’d go all Puritan on them and tack onto their probation a few months wearing a scarlet letter, so everyone would know what they truly are.

It would be a C, for cowards.

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Joe Tarica is the editor of The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. He’s worked in various newsroom roles since 1993, including as an award-winning copy editor, designer and writer of the Joetopia column. A California native, he has been a resident of San Luis Obispo County for more than three decades and is a Cal Poly graduate.
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