Local rancher turned homeless advocate Dan DeVaul was handcuffed and hauled to jail on Nov. 23.
After turning down a five-year probation term that would have required bringing his ranch up to county safety code requirements and allowing frequent visits from county code enforcers, DeVaul was sentenced to 90 days in county jail. He will also have to pay a $1,000 fine.
DeVaul was jailed for two misdemeanor county code violations: one for fire safety violations and one for illegally storing mobile homes on his property.
DeVaul was led away in handcuffs as more than 25 of his followers waved and clapped in support of their leader. DeVaul turned down offers to settle the case before it came to a jail sentence, said Deputy District Attorney Craig Van Rooyen.
“We have no objection to Mr. DeVaul’s facility,” said Van Rooyen, standing in court just feet in front of a mass of DeVaul supporters. “The way he has gone about it has led to this.”
Jeff Stulberg, DeVaul’s defense attorney, said the infractions weren’t that different from what you can find in an average garage. Not a single person had ever been injured from a safety issue, Stulberg said. He asked those in the gallery who wouldn’t have a bed to sleep in that night but for the work of DeVaul to stand. More than 20 did.
Judge John Trice complimented DeVaul on his work with the homeless but said DuVaul’s attitude toward the law was arrogant and irresponsible and he had no choice but to send the rancher to jail.
A jury convicted Sunny Acres Ranch owner Dan DeVaul of two charges of misdemeanor safety violations and acquitted him of two other counts on Sept. 22. The jury deadlocked on five more counts. The trial was unusual: The judge issued a gag order on all the parties involved, and DeVaul’s attorney asked—unsuccessfully it turned out—for a new trial after a juror said her guilty vote was insincere.
Before the trial, DeVaul said he was ready to go to jail and he believed he was being prosecuted for his work with the homeless. He said it would be impossible for Sunny Acres to survive if he had to bring his operation up to code.
“ All I want to do is continue the program,” DeVaul said. “I’ve got ideas, and I’ve got experience. I could be a bullshitting PR man and follow all the rules, and the county would be happy and that would be the day I have to close down because [the costs] would bankrupt us.”