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SLO employee who knocked out woman in bar allowed to 'pay-to-stay' in upgraded SoCal jail

Courtesy photo
A video posted online in 2019 shows Christopher Olcott punching a man and a woman in an Avila Beach bar in 2016.

A San Luis Obispo city employee convicted of brutally knocking out a woman and repeatedly punching her companion in a bar will be allowed to serve his 60-day-sentence in a 'pay-to-stay' jail in Orange County. A San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge Thursday granted Christopher Olcott a request to stay in an upgraded city-run jail. Olcott previously made a plea deal that resulted in felony charges being reduced to  misdemeanor battery with great bodily injury.

The assault, captured on camera in a crowded Avila Beach bar three years ago, sparked controversy as Olcott continued to be employed by the city as a building inspector in the Community Development Department. 

He was not placed on administrative leave until April 2019, when the video was published online, garnerning hundreds of thousands of views and public outrage.

It's still unclear whether Olcott's crime and criminal conviction will result in him losing his job with the city.

"We concluded the investigation and are proceeding through the required administrative process, which requires us to provide the results of the investigation to the employee and provide him with an opportunity to address any findings or conclusions," said SLO city attorney Christine Dietrick in an emailed statement. "That administrative process is required by state law going back to 1968 and expanded through various subsequent court rulings."

Eric Dobroth is an assistant district attorney for the county. He said his office argued Olcott should serve his sentence in the community where he committed his crime. Dobroth said instead, Olcott made an outside deal.

"This is something that is uniquely between the defense attorney, the defendant, and in this case, staff at the sheriff’s office and staff at the pay-to-stay facility down in Seal Beach," Dobroth said.

However, Chief Deputy Eric Nix with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said the agency had no say in the matter.

"All we do is maintain that they do the appropriate amount of time in the appropriate facility," Nix said. "Other than that, we have no dog in this fight and no stake in where it happens."

Sergeant Dave Barr with the Seal Beach Detention Facility told KCBX News that inmates from across the state, and other states, often choose to serve their time at that jail. But Barr said he couldn't speculate why an inmate would prefer to pay to stay in the Seal Beach jail rather than complete their sentence somewhere else. When pressed, he equated choosing the facility to taking a trip. 

"You could go on vacation to Hawaii or Tahiti," Barr said. "I can't say why they would want to stay [at the Seal Beach jail]."

Barr said that those who go to the pay-to-stay facility save taxpayer money. He also disputed claims it was a "luxury jail," although he listed amenities for inmates such as board games, playing cards, books, maagazines, television and access to an outside exercise yard.

Dobroth said he looked over a brochure for the facility Thursday.

“They have flat panel televisions, they have media, game rooms,” Dobroth said. “They have other amenities the typical jail would not have.”

The Seal Beach facility’s website advertises rates of $120-170 a night, on a case-by-case basis. In addition, there are work-release programs where prisoners are allowed to leave the grounds.

Olcott is scheduled to begin serving time September 6.