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Coming to Dan DeVaul's defense

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Many people in truly tough situations would be in far tougher spots if it weren’t for Dan DeVaul and his Sunny Acres Ranch. That’s what one gleans from eleven declarations filed with the court in an effort to allow DeVaul to avoid criminal penalties for code violations on his sobriety center and 72-acre ranch outside SLO.

The “declarations” are the first-person accounts of Sunny Acres residents. Attorney Jeffrey Stulberg submitted their stories to the court in an attempt to build an unusual defense: that DeVaul was compelled to help and house the people, regardless of county codes, by simple human decency. It is, he argues, little different from speeding on the way to the hospital in an emergency.

They include the story of James Layman, a 47-year-old self-described sober drug addict who, with his girlfriend, found his way to Sunny Acres after “being harassed by the police for being homeless” and discouraged that local shelters wouldn’t allow him to store his possessions while he looked for work.

“If we couldn’t stay here there would be no way to get back up and be a functional person. Since we live at Sunny Acres we can look for work and get back on our feet.”

Then there’s the story of Daniel Richardson, a former lab technician at Sierra Vista Hospital who struggles with a variety of health problems including seizures from a brain tumor and has a problem with alcohol.

Richardson said, “I have no doubt that Sunny Acres and Dan DeVaul saved my life. If I was still on the streets having seizures, drinking and not taking my medication, I could very easy be dead.”

Many of the court statements include similar statements.

The District Attorney’s office has argued against allowing DeVaul to use the motions in his defense. A judge is scheduled to rule on the matter Feb. 27.

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