Editorials

City employee who cold-cocked woman should be forced to serve his time in SLO County

Man knocks out woman in unprovoked Avila Beach bar fight

Security camera video captures the moment when an angry bar patron cold-cocked a woman and then punched her friend multiple times during a 2016 incident at Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach, California.
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Security camera video captures the moment when an angry bar patron cold-cocked a woman and then punched her friend multiple times during a 2016 incident at Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach, California.

The San Luis Obispo city employee who cold-cocked a woman in a bar — a crime caught on video — wants to do his jail time at a “pay-to-stay” facility in Southern California.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson has no objections, provided certain minimal stipulations are met.

That’s yet another outrage in a case the public has perceived as a miscarriage of justice.

Christopher Olcott, a 39-year-old building inspector, already got a huge break when he was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor battery after a felony trial ended in a deadlocked jury.

Now he wants to avoid serving his 60-day sentence — which could be reduced to 30 days for good behavior — where he committed his crime?

The reason for the request has not been made public, but in an April 23 letter to the city of San Luis Obispo, Olcott’s lawyer said his client has been threatened with violence.

“My client has been threatened with beating in or out of custody,” defense lawyer Ilan Funke-Bilu wrote then. “Gang members have apparently been conscripted to protect the honor of innocent woman.”

The implication here is that staff at the County Jail would be incapable of protecting Olcott from acts of violence.

Look, Olcott wouldn’t be the first County Jail inmate who’s been the focus of public scrutiny and/or the target of threats. And he won’t be the last.

It’s the job of the County Jail to house such inmates appropriately, in a way that will not compromise their safety.

bar elbow new.jpg
Christopher Olcott, in brown shirt, throws his elbow at the head of Camille Chavez on May 28, 2016, at Mr. Rick’s bar in Avila Beach. Olcott, a San Luis Obispo building inspector, has been placed on paid leave. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery after a felony trial ended in a hung jury last year. Courtesy photo

And what kind of precedent will this set if Olcott is allowed to pay his way out of County Jail and into a facility he finds more suitable?

Jail is intended to punish, and attempting to game the system by cherry-picking a facility with more amenities is galling.

It’s fine for inmates who can afford the $100 or more per day, but what of those who can’t?

So much for equal justice.

Yet Parkinson has indicated he’s OK with the plan, provided the court approves it, the time is served in a public jail rather than a private facility, and Olcott pays his own way.

Does the victim’s desire that her assailant serve time in San Luis Obispo County Jail count for nothing?

And what of the District Attorney’s Office, which has opposed the arrangement?

“He owes a debt to the community, and he should serve his time here in SLO County,” said Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth.

What’s doubly egregious in this case is that Olcott has not accepted responsibility for what happened.

According to victim Camille Chavez, he never so much as apologized for knocking Chavez to the ground and then repeatedly punching her companion, for no apparent reason.

“An apology, to me, would have represented a recognition of humanity, and it would have represented remorse for the damages to our lives that still have to be dealt with due to the choices Christopher Olcott made,” Chavez wrote in a letter to the court.

Funke-Bilu notes in his April 23 correspondence to the city that his client has always maintained his innocence.

The attorney also claims the media relied on a “surgically excised video” to fuel “public hysteria.”

Wrong.

It was public outrage — not hysteria — over what the public perceived as the gross injustice of a city employee avoiding a felony retrial and possibly keeping his job. (The city has placed Olcott on paid administrative leave while it investigates.)

That injustice will only be compounded if Christopher Olcott is allowed to serve out his time anywhere but in San Luis Obispo County.

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