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Juror bails out San Luis Obispo rancher jailed over conditions at his housing for the homeless

November 25, 2009 |  5:40 pm

It won’t be three hots and a cot on Thanksgiving day for San Luis Obispo rancher Dan De Vaul, who was sentenced to 90 days in jail earlier this week for illegally housing tenants on his property.

De Vaul, 66, will enjoy turkey with all the trimmings after being bailed out Tuesday by one of the jurors who convicted him of two misdemeanor violations. Mary Partin, who posted De Vaul's $5,000 bail, told local reporters that she regretted her guilty votes and wanted to help him.

His release at 6:15 p.m. came a day after a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ordered him to serve 90 days in jail for unsafe conditions at his Sunny Acres ranch.

Under California law, if a person is convicted of a misdemeanor and has filed an appeal, he can post bail, prosecutors said.

A jury in September convicted De Vaul for building a three-story dormitory without a permit and for housing residents of his sober-living program in unsafe conditions, including exposed electrical wiring. He also has illegally stored junked autos and trucks, officials have said.

County code enforcement officials have been trying to get De Vaul to clear up his violations for seven years.

Judge John Trice sent him to jail after De Vaul refused probation conditions that the rancher said would have required him to remove the 30 tenants on his 72-acre property.

De Vaul contends that the residents, homeless addicts and alcoholics, don’t have anywhere else to go. But the judge and prosecutors say De Vaul has been given several opportunities to bring his property up to code and has refused to do so.

De Vaul was in a celebratory mood Wednesday. He considered refusing Partin’s offer, he said, but agreed to the bailout so he could field numerous media requests for interviews, including calls from the New York Times, "Good Morning America" and the Larry King show.

“All we want to do is have a clean and sober program," he said. “If public support can get the county off of our back, terrific.”

-- Catherine Saillant