Deborah Vincent (Minder) is a former Deputy District Attorney with the Office of the District Attorney in Jackson County. She is an experienced trial attorney. During her employment with Jackson County, she completed over 60 jury trials with the highest percentage conviction record in the D.A.’s office.
Below is a series of articles reprinted from the Medford Mail Tribune about some of the more notable cases that Deborah Vincent handled while a Deputy District Attorney.
JUDGE SENTENCES THIRD OF ROWDY TRIO
JUDGE EXTENDS SENTENCE FOR HIT AND RUN DRIVER
SON STEALS MONEY FROM DYING DAD
DRUNK DRIVERS GET THE BOOT
PHONE HARASSER GETS FINE, PROBATION
CON MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN SALES SCAM
CON MAN GETS TIME IN PRISON
ACCUSED: I’M NOT TO BLAME
WOMAN GETS SIX MONTHS IN PIT BULL ATTACK
MULE KILL VIDEOTAPE STUNS TRIAL
SAFEWAY ROBBER NETS 11 YEARS
PROSPECT MAN SENT TO PRISON FOR ROBBING MEDFORD SAFEWAY
GOYETTE JURY SAYS GUILTY
POLICE OFFICER’S STALKER CONVICTED, JAILED
AGGRESSIVE FLASHER GETS JAIL TIME
PHARMACIST ADMITS SHE “SELF-MEDICATED”
JUDGE ACQUITS IN ANIMAL NEGLECT CASE
BOGUS 911 CALLER GETS TIME IN JAIL, PROBATION
MAN SENTENCED AFTER SHOT JUST MISSED WOMAN AT HOME
MAN GUILTY OF FLASHING STRIPPER
‘HATE CRIME’ ALLEGED IN BAR FRACAS
ASHLAND CONTINUES HATE CRIME PROBE
POLICE CLOSE TO END IN HATE CRIME
Judge sentences third of rowdy trio
By ALBERTO ENRIQUEZ
A guilty plea by a third Rogue River young man involved in several assaults should close a chapter on the trio’s spree of intimidation, says Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder.
Jason Slager, 18, pleaded guilty to a single count of menacing on Monday and was sentenced by Jackson County Judge Pat Crain to two years on probation, 80 hours of community service and mandatory counseling. Slager also is barred from possessing weapons, and must pay a fine of $500, half that amount suspended.Crain also imposed a 10-day suspended sentence and several no-contact orders. She told Slager that he would serve jail time and pay the full fine if he violated the orders or any other conditions of his probation.Slager and John Duval, 20, of Grants Pass, were arrested in July on attempted assault charges. Duval and Clayborne, 19, of Rogue River, were arrested on assault and menacing charges in February. Although the trio have variously portrayed these and other encounters as provocations or mutual combat, Minder said the strand running through these incidents were that the trio were together and, apparently lacking anything better to do, went looking for trouble, sometimes telling people that they had a gun or knife.
In one case, the group confronted a young man at a car wash, and while Duval held the victim by the throat, Clayborne beat him. In another case, Minder said Clayborne and his friends, who had been drinking, were refusing to leave the property of a Rogue River woman. When the woman drove up and asked them again to leave, Clayborne punched her in the mouth while she was still in the car, knocking out four of her teeth. Clayborne later pleaded guilty to a felony third-degree assault in the second incident.”Duval, Clayborne and Slager are all under mutual no-contact orders,” Minder said. “I’m hopeful that this is going to stop now.”Crain told Slager that he and others involved in the threats and assaults needed to “get a life” or face serious jail sentences.”You’re presenting yourself very meek today in court,” Crain said. “But I’m sure that wasn’t how you were presenting yourself on the street … Pretending you have a gun isn’t very smart. What if you’d run into someone who really did have a knife or gun?”Crain clearly was more impressed by Slager’s father, who told the court that despite his own daytime job, he now was driving his son to and from a 12-hour-a-day graveyard shift job to keep him busy.
Minder said the root of Rogue River’s problems appeared to be young men without enough to keep them productively engaged. “That’s why I wish RCC would open a campus there and we could get some of these guys into classes,” Minder said.
Judge extends sentence for hit-and-run driver
Victim suffers permanent disability
By DANI DODGE
“Hey, you, look at this!”
With that, Frank Young threw his shoeless foot over the bar of the courtroom, removing one sock, then a second from the same foot, to display a grotesquely deformed leg.
Young wanted to show his pain to Michael Thomas Potts, 30, the man who on May 12, 1997, hit Young with his car and left him bleeding in the middle of Highway 62.
“Next time, have the guts to stop when you run someone over,” Young said. Potts looked on morosely.
Tuesday, Judge Patricia Crain sentenced Potts to 14 months in prison for felony hit and run. He also was ordered to pay Young $8,000 in restitution. Crain departed from the normal sentencing guidelines that would have meant only 10 to 12 months in county jail.”Obviously, this is unforgivable,” Crain said. “The injuries are permanent and uncompensatable.”Potts cried during the sentencing. “I was scared,” he told the judge. “I didn’t know what to do.”But it happened, and there’s nothing else I can do. I apologize.”At 9:30 p.m. on May 12, 1997, Young was on his way home to Eagle Point from counseling divorcees at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Now 52, Young was within two weeks of earning his black belt in Kenpo, a kung fu style of martial arts.A computer systems analyst for Jackson County, Young was riding his Yamaha Virago 1100, one of many bikes he’s owned since he was 20.
He was just past Vilas Road. Ahead of him he saw a car pull off the road slightly. He eased the bike over to the left lane, in case the driver pulled back onto the road. But the driver flipped a U-turn, slamming into Young.Young and his motorcycle flew over the car. Young’s leg was broken in seven pieces. The bone burst through the leather of his Justin Roper cowboy boots.
“My doctor said it looked like a bomb went off inside my leg,” Young said.
A passerby saw Young in the road and stopped to help. He’s had to undergo nine surgeries in an attempt to repair the leg. In one surgery, muscles were taken from his abdomen and put in his leg to keep the blood flowing. In another, a golf ball-sized hunk of bone was taken from Young’s hip and wedged into his leg. While Young was concentrating on getting back to walking, Potts was on the lam. In June, Potts was picked up on a warrant in Washington. The only witness who knew that Potts was driving the car that hit Young had left without leaving a forwarding address.
Young hadn’t seen enough of Potts to identify him.
Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder tracked the witness to a hotel in the middle of Death Valley, Calif. Minder used the resources of the district attorney’s office there and a private detective to find the woman and bring her to Jackson County to testify.
Potts had been charged with felony hit and run as well as third-degree assault. When Potts realized that the evidence was stacked against him, he pleaded guilty to the hit and run, Minder said. The assault charge was dropped in the plea bargain.It is Potts’ eighth felony conviction. His previous convictions are for thefts and burglaries.Minder said this was an important case that needed justice.”This defendant has a total lack of respect for human life,” she said.
Son steals money from dying dad
Spending spree ends with guilty plea, two years’ probation
By DANI DODGE
As his 95-year-old father languished in a Medford nursing home, a 67-year-old Nevada man cleaned out his bank account buying clothes, towels and a Mickey Mouse watch.
Tuesday, Norman Reedy pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in a plea bargain with the district attorney’s office.It was the first crime on a previously clean record.
“Everything fell apart,” the distinguished-looking, silver-haired man explained to Judge Rebecca Orf.Orf sentenced Reedy to two years probation, 120 hours of community service and the payment of $3,443 in restitution in addition to court costs and attorney fees. Charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment and first-degree forgery were dropped in the plea bargain.
According to testimony in court, Reedy’s crimes began when he was collecting his father’s Social Security checks. He was supposed to use the money to pay for his father’s care, but the nursing home didn’t see a cent for six months, the prosecutor said.
When Social Security payments stopped in the winter of 1997, Reedy began writing checks from his dad’s checking account. He used his father’s identification.When store clerks would question the way he looked on his father’s license, Reedy explained he’d had cancer when the picture was taken, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder said.Even after Reedy had emptied two bank accounts, he continued writing checks for purchases from the Rogue Valley to Eugene.
Reedy spent more than $3,000 at the Medford Costco alone on luxuries like a LED-readout Mickey Mouse watch, a video cassette recorder and fancy chocolates.
Prosecutors said they did not know the total amount Reedy siphoned from his father’s accounts.Minder asked the judge to sentence Reedy to 20 days in jail. Reedy, though, asked to get back to work. Reedy recently got a job earning $7.50 an hour as a manager at a restaurant in Silver Springs, Nev. He noted that it is difficult at his age to find work, and he would lose the job if he didn’t get back to work.
Orf agreed it would probably be more beneficial to the public to let Reedy work off the effects of his crimes than to put him behind bars.”You got a break this morning and the intent of that is to allow you to pay restitution,” Orf said sternly. “If you don’t pay restitution, you will face jail time.”Reedy faces additional theft charges in Josephine County related to buying a motorhome with a bad check from his father’s accounts.
“It’s a sad case because while his dad was lying in a bed at Hearthstone, his son was spending all his money,” Minder said. Reedy said he came to the Medford area to work as a cook at a nursing home. He lost that job, was broke and didn’t know what to do.Then his mother died. That’s when the spending began.
Reedy said his Veterans Affairs psychiatrist said he was suffering from severe depression when he committed the crimes. He said he’s never resorted to crime before and still doesn’t understand why he did what he did. Reedy said he is a 20-year Navy man who served in Korea and Vietnam. “I’ve never had so much as a traffic ticket,” he said woefully after the sentencing.Reedy’s dad, Clarence Reedy, died in January.
Drunken drivers get the boot
County OKs program to immobilize cars
By ALBERTO ENRIQUEZ
Chronic drunken drivers soon will face a penalty on top of fines or jail: walking.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a car booting program that will allow judges to order drunken drivers’ cars immobilized for one year by the fitting of a tire-locking device known as a boot.Drivers will pay a $75 installation fee and a $30-a-month monitoring fee for the boot. Those who fail to pay could have their cars auctioned.
Before passing the ordinance, commissioners heard impassioned testimony from Ashland resident Angela Barber-Austbo, who in 1992 suffered severe permanent disability in an accident caused by a drunken driver. She said she’d completed a bachelor’s degree before the accident and had dreams of working as a high school counselor. Since, those dreams have slipped away, and she relies upon $400 a month in disability payments.”Now every day is frustrating; every day is difficult and takes a lot of extra techniques just to get through the little things that you all take for granted,” she said. “Tom George, the man who ruined my life, had many other DUIIs, and he hurt somebody else before he hurt me. … He has two years left in jail — I am sentenced for life. “George, of Ashland, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants, assault and other charges in the accident.
Jackson County traffic safety coordinator Sandy Depiero emphasized that Barber-Austbo isn’t alone. In the United States, drunken drivers leave 37,000 victims “sentenced for life to catastrophic injury.”
Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder, who helped draft the booting program in accordance with a law passed in the 1997 Legislature, said: The boot will be used only on conviction of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and even then, only at the discretion of a trial judge. The district attorney’s office initially will recommend the boot only for a DUII convict who has three major traffic convictions. State law allows booting after a single DUII.
The boot will be applied only to the vehicle driven at the time of arrest — whether borrowed or not. The district attorney’s office anticipates about 10 boot recommendations a month. Minder said a tiny percentage of drivers, perhaps 3 percent, account for the vast majority of DUIIs. These chronic offenders, mostly male and young to middle-aged, typically do not regard drunken driving as a problem.
Medford Police Deputy Chief Ron Norris joined other local law enforcement representatives in saying that judges need more tools to keep habitual drunken drivers off the streets. “In passing our own municipal impounding ordinance, we’ve had a number of examples where individuals are cited 40 times for DUII,” Norris said. “Our jails are full, and DUIIs go out first.”
Phone harasser gets fine, probation
By CHRIS BRISTOL
An Eagle Point man who used his telephone to harass a romantic rival was convicted of a misdemeanor Monday, thanks to a 1998 ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals that recognized the crime-fighting benefits of new technology such as voice mail and caller ID. Fred Jurado, 48, pleaded guilty to telephonic harassment and was fined $200 and placed on one year of unsupervised bench probation.Jurado called his girlfriend’s estranged husband 13 times in one night, each time leaving a different message on the victim’s answering machine that prosecutor Debbie Minder described as “some of the most vile name-calling you could possibly imagine.”
“This was mean, nasty profanity,” she said. “The best word to describe it is vile, just vile.”According to Minder, telephonic harassment has been difficult to prosecute in the past. For the law to apply, the victim not only had to tell the harasser to stop calling but also had to personally answer any subsequent calls.But the state Court of Appeals last year ruled that victims did not have to answer the phone. Instead, the court allowed caller ID as evidence and approved tape recordings from answering machines and voice mail.”The law finally caught up with the technology,” Minder said. “The court ruled that listening to the message was sufficient.”A prior warning from the victim is still required, Minder noted.
The law also can be applied to cases involving persistent hangup calls or “noncommunicative” calls in which the suspect says nothing but won’t hang up. And it applies to aggressive telemarketers, although it can be difficult for authorities to prosecute out-of-town sales outfits.
Minder said many people, particularly victims of such harassment, are not aware of the law. “A lot of people don’t know,” she said. “They just put up with it.”
For reasons that remain unclear, Jurado was angry with the victim. Minder said Jurado was living with the victim’s estranged wife, who had a restraining order against the victim but was seeing him anyway. On the night of March 28, Jurado bombarded the victim with more than a dozen calls that Minder said were “clearly meant to escalate. He (Jurado) was just trying to get under the victim’s skin.” The victim had previously told Jurado not to call his house. When necessary, police can set up a phone trap. In this case the victim already had caller ID, Minder said. He called Medford police, who confirmed the calls and forwarded the taped messages to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. In court Monday, Jurado told Jackson County Judge Raymond White he was unaware of the law.
Telephonic harassment is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.”Ignorance of the law is no defense,” Minder said. “That’s always been true.”
Con man pleads guilty in sales scams
By CHRIS BRISTOL
An accused con artist became a convicted con artist Monday and agreed to pay more than $157,000 in restitution for bogus investments that included repeat sales of a nonexistent coffee stand.
Delbert Leroy Stephens Jr., appearing before Jackson County Judge Patricia Crain, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and four counts of aggravated theft. In exchange, prosecutors dropped another racketeering charge and two counts of first-degree theft.
He faces up to 16 months in prison. Sentencing was set for Oct. 28. Prosecutor Debbie Minder described Stephens, 41, as a once-legitimate insurance and investments counselor from the Eugene area who went bad and began using his skills to prey on investors with big money. “He is a flimflam man,” she said. “This was first-class white-collar crime.”
From March 1998 to June, Stephens conned at least six investors from the Rogue Valley and Eugene into buying a drive-through coffee stand in Bend that didn’t exist, Minder said. The investments ranged from $8,000 to $25,000. “He kept selling the same one over and over and over,” Minder said, “and he always kept the money for his own personal use.”
The racketeering charge, a Class A felony under Oregon law, incorporates two or more theft charges whenever prosecutors can document a pattern of criminal activity. Minder said the second racketeering charge involved three purchases of property on the Oregon Coast. One of the victims bought property twice from Stephens, once for $30,000 and then again for $18,600.”He (Stephens) did invest in one property in Siletz, but he didn’t put it in the victim’s name and then kept the money when he sold it,” Minder said.
Stephens was caught after that investor, who was also one of the coffee-stand victims, became suspicious and began snooping around, Minder said. Medford police initially had trouble locating Stephens.
After a news story on the case was published, detectives got several tips and found Stephens selling yachts in Portland. Stephens at one time had a securities license, but he was not licensed to sell securities or real estate when he was arrested. Authorities say it’s smart to inspect a seller’s license and check out the authenticity of an investment.
Minder said the Stephens case reflects a move by the Medford police and the Jackson County district attorney’s office to aggressively prosecute white-collar crime.Stephens remains lodged in the Jackson County jail on $505,000 bail. None of the money he stole has been recovered.
Con man gets time in prison|
Bogus partnerships draw restitution also
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A con man who sold phony partnerships in a nonexistent Medford coffee stand was sentenced to 16 months in prison Thursday and ordered to pay more than $157,000 in restitution.
“You reap what you sow,” an apologetic Delbert Stephens said in a prepared statement to the court. Stephens, 41, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to one count of racketeering and four counts of aggravated theft. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a second racketeering charge and two counts of first-degree theft.
Prosecutors said Stephens conned at least six investors from the Rogue Valley and Eugene areas into buying 50 percent partnerships in a much-recycled corporation called the Espress Lane Coffee Co.
None of the partners knew about each other until one of the victims went to see the investment, a coffee stand in Bend, and found that it was already owned by somebody else, prosecutors said. Another victim learned he had been taken when he tried to visit the site of his investment in Medford and found an empty lot instead, prosecutors said. Individual investments ranged from $8,000 to $25,000.
Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder said the second racketeering charge stemmed from a bogus real estate business called Equity Partners Inc. One victim bought the same property on the Oregon Coast twice.Stephens fled the area after Medford police Detective Ray Leach began poking into the case. Acting on news tips, Leach arrested Stephens in Portland, where he was employed as a yacht salesman.
In addition to prison time, Jackson County Judge Ray White placed Stephens on five years of supervised probation. Among the terms, Stephens was ordered to divest himself of any business dealings and dissolve the bogus corporations Espress Lane and Equity Partners. He was also warned against starting any new businesses or filing articles of incorporation. White threatened Stephens with up to eight months in jail if he ever violates probation. Racketeering involves a documented pattern of related criminal activity, in this case multiple scams. Stephens had no prior criminal record. The state Department of Consumer and Business Services had previously warned him about selling securities without a license, according to court records.
Despite his relatively clean record, Minder said Stephens would have faced a minimum sentence of 30 months in prison had he been convicted of racketeering in federal court. To date, none of the money he stole has been recovered.
Accused: I’m not to blame
Manslaughter trial in DUII fatal starts
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A Medford man on trial this week for manslaughter claims he is not to blame for a fatal crash last year because authorities have it all wrong about who was driving.
In opening statements Tuesday in Judge Ray White’s courtroom, defense attorney Lorenzo Mejia told the jury that his client, Michael Duane Goyette, was indeed guilty of drunken driving —but not at the time of the accident. Instead, Mejia said, 21-year-old Summer Frost was behind the wheel when Goyette’s 1994 Toyota pickup collided with a one-ton Ford F350 more than three times its size. The young waitress, a friend of Goyette’s then-fiancee, was killed almost instantly in the wreck.
“The evidence is not there that he was driving at the time of the accident,” Mejia told the jury. But prosecutor Debbie Minder said Frost only looked like she was behind the wheel because of the violence of the crash, which occurred April 18, 1998, at the intersection of Morrow Road and Poplar Drive in north Medford. Neither Goyette, 31, nor Frost was wearing a seat belt. The occupants of the Ford, which struck the Toyota on the passenger side, were not injured.
Goyette is charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and first-degree criminal mischief. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum Measure 11 sentence of more than six years in prison. For now he is free on $500 bail.
Minder, a Jackson County deputy district attorney, said the evidence would show that Frost’s feet were wedged into carpeting on the passenger-side floorboard and that Goyette’s feet were tangled in the pedals on the driver’s side. Minder further said that witnesses saw Goyette climb behind the wheel of the Toyota just before the crash, that Goyette made incriminating statements at the scene and later at the hospital, and that an Oregon State Police accident reconstruction expert would testify Goyette was the driver.
“Summer Frost was killed by a drunk driver,” she said, blinking back tears. “The driver was three times the legal limit, and he ran a red light.”That driver was Mr. Goyette.”Throughout the session Tuesday, the boyish-looking defendant appeared relaxed and upbeat —in direct contrast to Frost’s stern-faced sister and mother, who sat alone toward the back of the courtroom.
According to Minder, the events that led up to the crash began to unfold even before Goyette had a single drink. Before the defendant left work, his fiancee and Frost had already been drinking for several hours with another man at a restaurant in Poplar Square.
Minder told the jury that Goyette’s fiancee picked him up around 4:30 p.m. and drove him back to Guadalajara Family Mexican Restaurant, where the foursome continued drinking for more than three hours. Shortly after 8 p.m., owner Jose Castro presented the group with a $175 bar bill but left a full bottle of 80-proof tequila on the table, she said. By the time he discovered his mistake 10 minutes later, the group had downed half the bottle. “They took advantage of it and started doing shots,” she said. “Mr. Castro cut them off immediately.”
Minder said Castro tried in vain to call a cab, but Goyette and his friends insisted on driving. Goyette decided to give Frost a ride home, while his fiancee gave the other man a ride in her car.
Minutes later, a stuporous Frost walked unannounced into a home behind the restaurant on Jubilant Avenue while Goyette urinated on the front lawn. The alarmed residents, who didn’t know the two, immediately called 911, but Goyette and Frost took off before the police arrived. Goyette was driving, Minder said. The crash occurred only minutes later.
In his statement, Mejia not only disputed that his client was the driver but also whether the Toyota ran the light at Morrow and Poplar. And he disputed statements Goyette made at the hospital — “I didn’t kill someone, did I?” — as the ravings of a man who at the time was injured badly enough to be in intensive care. Said Mejia, “The case comes down to this: Who was driving, and who had the red light?” The trial is expected to last four days.
Goyette jury says guilty
He’ll do more than six years for fatal drunken-driving wreck
By CHRIS BRISTOL
Solving a whodunit of sorts, a Jackson County jury on Friday brushed aside Michael Goyette’s claim that he wasn’t to blame for a fatal crash last year because he wasn’t the driver.
The jury of six men and six women ruled 11-1 that Goyette was indeed the driver who caused a drunken wreck April 18, 1998 — making him guilty of second-degree manslaughter and clearing the victim, Summer Frost, who was the only other occupant of Goyette’s vehicle.The defendant showed no emotion as Judge Ray White read the verdict. The jury also found Goyette guilty of four lesser charges: criminally negligent homicide, drunken driving, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.White immediately revoked Goyette’s bail and returned him to custody. Under state law, Goyette faces a mandatory sentence of more than six years in prison with no early release or parole.Sentencing was scheduled for Thursday.
Frost’s sister, Fawn Stone, praised the jury’s decision and said she still couldn’t quite believe that Goyette denied responsibility for the crash. “We’re trying to get over this, and (the trial) brings it all back,” she said. “It makes it feel like it happened yesterday. Now my family can get on with our lives.”Goyette, 31, never explicitly claimed he wasn’t the driver — only that prosecutors couldn’t prove he was. After a four-trial day, the jury sided with the state. The only charge Goyette didn’t fight was driving under the influence of intoxicants. But even though he conceded he drove drunk from the Guadalajara restaurant at Poplar Square — where his group ran up a $175 bar tab and then downed half a bottle of tequila before the owner cut them off — he denied he was driving only minutes later when the crash occurred.
Woman gets six months in pit bull attack
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A 19-year-old mother of two sobbed in court Tuesday as she was sentenced to six months in custody at the Talent Work Center for siccing her pit bull on her aunt.
Kristina Compher put her face in her hands as Jackson County Judge Ray White grimly explained his decision to incarcerate her immediately for the attack, which left her aunt with permanent scars on the stomach, groin and leg.”My babies,” she cried. “Can’t I say goodbye to my babies?”
But Compher’s children were not there. They have been in protective foster care since January, and the judge was unwilling to give her time to report to jail.” You have to be ready” at sentencing, he said. Compher was almost two hours late for court Tuesday, and has been late other times as well.
Compher pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault in connection with the attack, which occurred Sept. 4, 1998, outside her mother’s home in south Medford. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of felony assault and reckless endangerment.Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder said Compher intentionally unleashed the 80-pound dog on her aunt, Connie Thayer, who had tried to intervene in a fight between Compher and her mother.
The dog, named Havoc, bit Thayer on the stomach and groin. Compher’s father also was injured when he tried to stop the attack. The dog was later euthanized.
Minder recommended a sentence of six months at the Talent lockup. She noted that Compher was convicted in 1995 of attacking her sister with a baseball bat and once head-butted her younger brother so hard that he suffered two black eyes and a broken nose.
Then there was the issue of Compher’s children.
According to Minder, Compher was recently convicted of criminal mistreatment for removing her youngest child from a Klamath Falls hospital against doctors’ advice. The child had suffered a fractured skull.
Authorities still don’t know how it happened, although they think Compher’s fugitive boyfriend was involved. He is wanted on a warrant for vandalizing her apartment. Compher denied she ordered the dog to attack her aunt.
“I do have a bad past,” she said, “but I don’t deserve to be locked up and kept away from my children.” Judge White disagreed. “We don’t want your children to grow up in a dysfunctional family, which seems to be your lifestyle,” he said. “Your kids are going to suffer unless you change your behavior.”
After court adjourned, Minder said Compher is in danger of having her parental rights terminated unless she takes advantage of an in-custody program called Cognitive Restructuring. Minder said she reduced the assault charge to a misdemeanor to spare Compher’s family the “turmoil” of trial. Based on Compher’s record, a felony assault conviction would have resulted in a 19-month prison sentence.
Mule kill videotape stuns trial
By CHRIS BRISTOL
For close to 30 minutes, nobody in the courtroom of Jackson County Judge Dan Harris spoke a word.Instead, they all watched a video.
The only sound in court was the voice of Rodney Womack, a resident of Sams Valley who had secretly taped two men shooting a mule over and over and over. One of the men, Womack’s neighbor David Lee Bennett, was on trial Tuesday for animal abuse.
“He shot it again,” Womack says, his voice registering disbelief. “I don’t know how many times he’s shot that thing before I grabbed the camera.”
At least 10 times, his wife Terry answers in the background. “More than that, I think,” Womack grimly replies.The tape continued. The shooting continued. Bennett’s friend James Hastie was using a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun loaded with BB-sized birdshot. The dun-colored mule would not die.”You can see the chest swell up (and) and blood flies out,” Womack goes on, like a play-by-play sportscaster. “That thing’s still standing!”
Finally the doomed animal goes down. “It’s still moving,” he says, “trying to get up.” Then a long pause. “Shot it again.”Hastie, 52, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree animal abuse for his role in the incident. The mule eventually died, but not until Hastie shot it maybe 30 times — mainly in the chest.
During a break in Bennett’s trial, Harris sentenced Hastie to 18 months bench probation and a $1,600 fine. The judge also ordered 72 hours of community service, including 32 hours at the direction of county Animal Control.
The gray-bearded White City man, dressed in blue Levis and a black leather motorcycle jacket, apologized to the court. He said he was only trying to help Bennett out and simply used the wrong tool for the job. “My ignorance led to this crime,” he said. “I’m sorry. That’s about all I can say. It was an act of mercy gone bad.”Bennett’s role in the matter was a different story. He demanded a trial — by judge, not jury — on the grounds that he was not responsible for what happened because he knew nothing of guns. It was all Hastie’s fault.
Taking the stand Tuesday in his own defense, he testified that he bought the mule for $60 at auction and decided it had to be put down later the same day because it was harassing the mare he owned and then tried to bust through a fence. In doing so, he said, the mule had suffered a serious injury to its chest. Blood was spouting “two feet” from the wound, he said.
Prosecutor Debbie Minder questioned Bennett’s story. A local veterinarian who specializes in equine medicine testified the mule did not appear on the tape as though it was injured at all, much less mortally. Regardless of motive, Minder argued that Bennett, 43, was ultimately responsible for his animal. Owners have a right to kill their animals, she said, but they must do so in a humane way.” A reasonable person, after two or three shots, would conclude this method was not working,” she argued.
“Where the crime occurs is that he doesn’t tell him (Hastie) to stop.” Judge Harris agreed. Bennett was caught on tape.” Obviously from the videotape you participated,” he told the defendant. “It’s obvious this was a joint venture.”
As with Hastie, the judge put Bennett on 18 months probation and ordered the same community service. He also ordered an $1,800 fine, which the unemployed Bennett can reduce by half if he attends an animal-cruelty class.The mule’s original owner, Trail rancher Leonard Petersen, said he was sorry he ever took the animal to auction. It’s name was Jack.”He was like a dog, and he had a lot of smarts,” Petersen said. “Those two fellas, what they did was plain stupid.”
Safeway robber nets 11 years
Judge unmoved by Stover’s claim to be nonviolent
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A two-time loser with reputed ties to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang was sent to prison for more than 11 years Friday for robbing a grocery store in west Medford.
Shawn Wayne Stover, 29, must serve the entire sentence and won’t be eligible for parole until 2010. After a six-day trial in March, a Jackson County jury convicted Stover of two counts of first-degree robbery for the Sept. 28 holdup of the West Main Safeway store. The jury also convicted Stover of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The trial was a bit of a whodunit, with Stover arguing the state’s case was entirely circumstantial and that a different suspect pulled the job. The jury deliberated for 10 hours before returning a verdict at 1:15 a.m. Stover has a long rap sheet, including convictions for second-degree robbery, first-degree theft and car theft. Authorities say he has ties to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang.
At his sentencing Friday, the Prospect man disputed findings in a pre-sentence report that concluded he was violent and suffers from an antisocial personality disorder.”I’m a passive person, not aggressive,” he said, adding that his reputation for fighting in jail is simply reflective of the environment.
But trial judge Ray White was not moved. Two different Safeway employees had been forced at gunpoint to fork over cash, leading White to add 45 months to Stover’s base sentence under Measure 11 of 90 months. The judge said he was somewhat puzzled about Stover’s life of crime. Most offenders come from dysfunctional families or have drug or alcohol problems, he said. “With you it’s not that way,” he said, looking at Stover. “You just do what you want to when you want to.”
After the proceeding, prosecutor Debbie Minder acknowledged the case against Stover was largely circumstantial. Key testimony came from a prosecution witness who saw the masked robber and his getaway car, she said.
The witness, a recovering drug addict, was acquainted with Stover from Medford’s seamy spun-on-methamphetamine subculture. Minder said Stover is a threat to retaliate, even from prison. “He was very integral to this case,” she said of the witness. “He probably risked his life to testify.”
Medford police also recovered $2,100 in small, bundled bills from a bag under the back seat of Stover’s car. Police never collared the robber’s accomplice in the getaway car.
In a related development earlier this week, Stover’s girlfriend pleaded guilty to charges that she tried to smuggle cigarettes into Stover’s cell at the Jackson County Jail. Minder said Mistelle Alsup-Armstrong, 24, was caught red-handed outside Stover’s cell when a deputy happened by as she tried to string up a bag containing smokes and rolling papers. She awaits sentencing. Apparently Stover simply kicked out his cell window.
Prospect man sent to prison for robbing Medford Safeway
A Prospect man will head to prison after a jury deliberated until 1 a.m. Wednesday and found him guilty of robbing a Safeway store last fall. After a six-day trial, Shawn Wayne Stover, 28, was convicted of two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury reached its verdict after deliberating more than 10 hours. No sentencing date has been set.
Under state guidelines, a first-degree robbery conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 months in prison.Stover entered the store at 1101 W. Main St., Medford, with a firearm just after midnight Sept. 28. He held four store employees and three customers at gunpoint, police said. After the store manager gave him money, he fled to a car across the street.
Deputy district attorney Debbie Minder said $2,100 was found in the car’s back seat.”We are very happy with the results of the trial,” said Medford police Lt. Tim George. “Medford’s a safer place to live and work now that Mr. Stover’s going to be incarcerated for an extended period of time.”
Police officer’s stalker convicted, jailed
Homeless man tells cop he’ll kill another officer and his family
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A homeless man with an anti-cop attitude was convicted Wednesday of stalking a Medford police officer and sentenced to five months in jail.
At issue was whether Robert Grasmick intentionally or unintentionally delivered a threat to kill Officer Mike Strouse and his family via a “third party” — in this case, another officer.
After a daylong trial, a Jackson County jury of five women and one man found Grasmick guilty. Jackson County Judge Daniel Harris then sentenced Grasmick to 150 days in jail and two years of supervised probation, plus counseling. The judge also warned Grasmick, 34, not to contact the officer or his family again.The way Grasmick saw it, he never did. If he ever does, though, he faces a felony conviction and up to 20 months in prison.
In trial testimony, several officers portrayed Grasmick as a belligerent and somewhat deranged street person who challenges them to fistfights virtually every time they contact him. The violation occurred Aug. 3 when Officer Steve Banry arrested Grasmick on a warrant. Banry testified that Grasmick threatened to kill him and several Medford police officers — by name.” He said, `Last, I’m gonna kill Strouse and his f—— family,’ ” Banry testified.
The threat bothered Banry enough that he warned Strouse about it. Only then did he learn that Strouse had a stalking order against Grasmick and that Grasmick was only a block or two away from where Strouse lived. Strouse testified that he obtained the court order after a series of run-ins with Grasmick in the summer of 1998. Grasmick was seen several times outside the apartment complex where Strouse lived with his wife and two small children, and Strouse said his wife saw Grasmick staring at her one day as she drove home with the kids.Later that same day, Strouse said Grasmick confronted him while he was off duty at a nearby store and began “going off” about an earlier case.
According to court records, Strouse had arrested Grasmick for public indecency and banned him from city parks. The jury heard various allusions to the arrest (and that charges were later dropped) but not the exact circumstances. Strouse said the incidents bothered him enough that he got a stalking order. He said he found himself checking inside closets and under beds whenever he came home and worrying constantly about his family’s safety when he was at work. “I’ve never had a person make continuous and unwanted contact with me or my family,” he said.
Nevertheless, nothing more happened for almost a year — until the night Grasmick got arrested on the warrant. In sometimes incoherent testimony, Grasmick, who opted to wear his green jail togs in court instead of street clothes, denied threatening Strouse and testified that police in Medford and Ashland harass him because he is homeless. He claimed that on the night he was arrested, Strouse had cited him for trespassing in Hawthorne Park. Strouse testified that he did cite Grasmick — several nights earlier and only after notifying a supervisor. “All I’m doing is trying to be a citizen and live,” Grasmick said, adding he thinks there are too many police officers in Medford and Ashland.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Doug Engle argued that his client only “popped off” while being arrested and never instructed Officer Banry to pass along the threat.”I don’t think there’s any subtlety in this guy,” Engle told the jury. “If he wanted a message to Officer Strouse, he knew how to do it.”
But prosecutor Debbie Minder argued that Grasmick’s threat violated a provision of the stalking order prohibiting the defendant from communicating with Strouse through a “third party.” “He has to know what he said would get back to Officer Strouse,” she said. “You can’t say something like that to somebody’s co-worker and not think it won’t be relayed back.”
After the verdict, Minder said she believes Grasmick may be mentally ill. “It’s the criminal justice system that’s taking care of people like him, instead of the mental health industry,” she complained. “Prison probably just makes them worse.”
Aggressive flasher gets jail time
Unlike most, this one grabbed one of his victims
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A Prospect man who accosted women in the woods — minus his pants — got more than a slap on the wrist for a sex offense that usually draws a much lighter penalty.
Randy Lee Bean, 42, tapped his fingers nervously on a courtroom table Friday morning, avoiding all eye contact, as Jackson County Judge Ray White sentenced him to 120 days in jail and five years of supervised probation. His crime: public indecency, a Class A misdemeanor.
Also known as flashing or exposing, the so-called PI cases occur more frequently in the Rogue Valley than most people realize. Prosecutors say Bean’s case was more disturbing than most.A self-employed carpenter, Bean confessed to two of three “accidental” incidents in May in which lone women said they were accosted by a man — his pants down or missing altogether — who harassed them verbally as he openly masturbated in their presence.
In one incident, on a hiking trail by Lost Creek Lake, the victim said Bean began to chase her. In another, the victim said Bean grabbed her foot outside a public restroom at nearby Takelma Park.
One of the victims was in court Friday. She told judge that she was less concerned about the lewdness — “If you were just naked …” — than the way Bean ambushed her.”The fact that he snuck up behind me, I nearly had a heart attack,” she said. “I’m not used to running like that.”
By then, White had heard enough. He told Bean that his probation would be dominated by intense sex-offender treatment. For up to five years.”This goes beyond the normal public indecency case,” White said. “This was more aggressive than normal.”The judge also warned Bean that he faces additional jail time of up to 1 years if he fails treatment, which includes regular polygraph testing to keep tabs on his activity and his progress.He gave Bean a week to report to jail.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” Bean mumbled. “It won’t happen again.”After the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder described the case as the “most aggravated” she ever prosecuted involving public indecency. Under Oregon law, public indecency is a crime if it involves sexual intercourse in a public place or exposure of genitalia for sexual arousal. “Public” also means any place in view of a public place, such as a residence from the street.
In most cases, she said, PIs shy away from physical interaction. They want victims — almost always women or children — to see them, but that’s it. It happens more than most people realize, even those in law enforcement. According to Jackson County court records, prosecutors filed 20 cases involving public indecency last year and 18 so far this year — a number that is generally thought to reflect only a small fraction of actual incidents.”I’ve never had one grab somebody,” said Minder, who estimates she’s prosecuted 20 cases in three years. “That really concerned me in this case.”
Sam Olsen, a county parole and probation officer who specializes in the treatment of sex offenders, said PIs are usually difficult to treat because the behavior is compulsive to the point of serious mental illness.” We have a battle for their mind,” he said. “Some we lose. Some we don’t.” Moreover, case studies have revealed that many rapists start out by committing less serious crimes such as public indecency. Olsen said Bean’s behavior was a red flag.” Normally PIs try to stay away from victims,” he said. “I was particularly concerned about his aggression.” Regardless, whether an offender becomes violent or simply continues to expose himself, Olsen said the public should not take public indecency lightly.”If you talk to victims, they are quite often frightened,” Olsen said, “because they never know what he might do.”
Pharmacist admits she ‘self-medicated’
By CHRIS BRISTOL
Caught on video, a former Medford pharmacist admitted in court Tuesday that she “self-medicated” without a doctor’s prescription. In dispute was which drugs Gloria Stadther stole and why.
Stadther, 45, was placed on 18 months of unsupervised probation after she pleaded guilty to a single charge of third-degree theft. Jackson County Judge Patricia Crain also ordered Stadther to perform 24 hours of community service.In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dropped another theft charge and a single count of unlawfully obtaining a controlled substance.
She was arrested last summer after management at NCS Healthcare, a licensed-care pharmacy, installed a secret video camera to confirm suspicions that an employee was stealing from a prescription cabinet.
Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder said the video caught Stadther red-handed. “She would take stuff from the cabinet and not log it in,” Minder explained. “Then you can see her walking away, popping it down.”
In court Tuesday, Stadther admitted that she stole a diarrhea-control prescription drug called Lotomil. She said she needed it for “self-medication.” Prosecutors believe she also stole a Valium-like tranquilizer called Lorazapam — better known by the brand name Ativan — but Stadther denied it and blamed the pharmacy for poor inventory control. “There were all sorts of discrepancies when I was there and when I was not there,” she told the court.
Dawn Baker, a staff pharmacist at NCS, disputed Stadther’s version of events. The pharmacy carefully tracks drugs by computer and logbooks, she said.”Someone obviously realized there was a problem,” she said. “They used a camera to solve the problem.”
Gary Schnabel, compliance director for the state Board of Pharmacy in Portland, said pharmacies are tightly regulated by the state and fewer than a dozen pharmacists a year are disciplined for misusing prescription medication.The reason why is simple, he said. “It’s a real high-risk environment,” he said. “If you’ve got a headache, you’ve got a store-full of stuff. Pharmacies have to be real careful.”
After her arrest, Stadther was put on probation by the pharmacy board for five years and must submit to 12 random drug tests over the next three years. Baker said Stadther resigned from NCS after her arrest. She now works for a pharmacy in Ashland.
Judge acquits in animal neglect case
Man said he couldn’t pay veterinarian
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A Medford man who testified that he could not afford to take his injured puppy to a
veterinarian was acquitted of animal neglect.
Jackson County Judge Dan Harris pronounced Edward J. Lane not guilty of
neglecting the dog, despite a vet’s expert testimony that the puppy’s gruesome
and pungent sores stemmed from a long-term skin infection.
Harris came to his decision after comparing the defendant’s situation to his own
experience involving sick family pets.
“We’ve treated some of our cats ourselves, and sometimes they don’t get better,”
the judge said, adding that he has performed a couple of backyard burials as a
Lane, 48, was charged with first-degree animal neglect (a Class A misdemeanor)
after he told Animal Control officers that the shepherd mix got stuck behind a
refrigerator for several days and rubbed itself raw trying to escape.
In court Wednesday, Lane testified that he did not have the money to take the dog
to a vet. Instead, he consulted a pet store clerk, who suggested using an antibiotic
“I wanted to see what happened,” he told the court. “I had no money” for a
Animal Control became involved when the dog wandered away, taking refuge in a
neighbor’s garage. The neighbors mistakenly believed the animal had been struck
by a car.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Debbie Minder questioned the defendant’s story
about how it got stuck. Lane and other defense witnesses said the dog never
made a sound, even though it was not mute.
Minder also focused on the testimony of Dr. Bret Mackel, a Talent veterinarian
who had to euthanize the dog after Animal Control brought it in for treatment.
Mackel testified that the dog’s wounds were the result of a long-term skin infection.
He also testified that its emaciated, muscle-wasted condition could not have
occurred in just a few days.
“No reasonable person would wait any length of time to take this dog to the vet,”
Minder argued. “It’s absolutely criminal negligence what this defendant did.”
But public defender Eugene Thompson argued his client was a victim of his
“You’re talking about people who are obviously indigent,” Thompson said. “They
can’t even take themselves to the doctor.”
In his decision, Harris said the state was unable to prove Lane’s behavior was a
“gross deviation” from the standard of care that a reasonable person would
“The defendant attempted to nurse the dog back to health,” Harris said, citing the
consultation with the pet store clerk.
Harris did not mention the testimony of Dr. Mackel. He also declined to grant
Minder’s request that he consider the lesser charge of second-degree animal
The ruling surprised several prosecution witnesses, including Dr. Mackel. He said
many vets are willing to work with pet owners who don’t have much to spend.
Andy Lane, the county Animal Control officer who rescued the dog, also said he
was shocked by the verdict.
“That poor dog was nothing but a big infection,” Lane said. “Any normal person,
they would’ve rushed him to a vet. I just don’t get it.”
The case was a rare loss for Minder, who successfully prosecuted two men last
year for shooting a mule to death with dozens of blasts of birdshot.
Judge Harris presided over that case, too. In that case, he opted for fines and
community service in lieu of jail time.
Bogus 911 caller gets time in jail, probation
By CHRIS BRISTOL
A former White City man admitted in court that he reported a phony abduction-in-progress last year to divert the police from impounding a buddy’s rig.
Randy Lee Carson, 27, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of improper use of 911 and was placed on two years of probation for his role in the caper, which unraveled thanks to the detective work of one of the deceived officers.
According to prosecutors, Oregon State Police trooper Joey Pollard eventually identified Carson as the man who called 911 early in the morning of Oct. 11 from a pay phone near the Gold Hill Hotel.
“I’d like to report a guy holding a gun to a lady’s head,” the caller said, according to a transcript of the dispatch tape, “and they are just now pulling … They are in a little red Subaru.”
At the time, Pollard was preparing to cite a motorist only a few blocks away for driving suspended and to impound his truck.
“She’s screaming,” the caller frantically told the dispatcher. “OK. His friends are coming back at me like they’re … I’m going to get out of here. Bye.”
Pollard and several other officers, including two Jackson County sheriff’s deputies, raced to the hotel, where all was quiet.
They realized they’d been duped. But Pollard refused to let it go at that. Within weeks, Pollard had identified Carson as the suspect.
In exchange for Carson’s plea on the 911 charge, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder dropped a misdemeanor charge of initiating a false report. Carson also was fined $310 in court costs and sentenced to time-served (17 days) in jail.
Minder told Judge Patricia Crain that Carson had prior convictions that indicated he suffers from mental problems. Even so, she warned, “The way he pulled this off, he may be a bit cagier than we think.”
Carson has since moved out of the area. Through his public defender, he claims his pal in the truck was the one who put him up to it. Nevertheless, says Minder, “You can’t cry wolf on stuff like that, even to help your friends.
“It’s like calling the fire department to a fire that’s nonexistent,” she added. “When you’re playing around with 911, that’s pretty serious.”
Man sentenced after shot just missed woman at home
By Chris Bristol
Dropping a bobby pin may have been the luckiest thing that ever happened to Dolores Simmerman. It was also lucky for target shooter Harry Stewart. In a Jackson County courtroom Monday, Stewart was sentenced to 18 months of probation as the person responsible last summer for firing a stray bullet that penetrated the bathroom of Simmerman’s rural trailer more than a quarter-mile away. Simmerman was fixing her hair in the bathroom at the time, and authorities believe she escaped serious injury only because she was bending over to pick up a bobby pin at the same moment the .45-caliber slug came calling.”
It’s a total coincidence she wasn’t killed,” prosecutor Debbie Minder marveled. “This incident could have been a lot worse.”Simmerman agreed. “It probably would have hit me in the head,” she said. “I’m glad I bent over. “
Authorities said the bullet pierced the exterior wall of the double-wide trailer, then passed clean through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom before coming to rest in the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. After Simmerman’s son dug it out, sheriff’s deputies tested the bullet against two firearms — an H&K MP5 submachine gun and an H&K .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol — that had been fired by target shooters July 24 at a home 1,500 feet away from Simmerman’s place on North Applegate Road.
Forensic experts eventually determined the pistol fired the bullet, leading to Stewart’s guilty plea Monday of reckless endangerment. Prosecutors dropped a charge of second-degree criminal mischief in exchange for the plea.Stewart, 61, complained in court that he had not seen Simmerman’s house through the brush.
Minder said Stewart’s target-shooting companion knew the house was there, and evidence suggested Stewart fired recklessly in the air. She said Stewart had also been drinking.
In addition to probation, Judge Ray White ordered Stewart to perform 24 hours of community service and forfeit the gun, which actually belonged to a friend. The defendant had no prior criminal record.
White said the case reminded him of a 1973 homicide in which a 53-year-old Eagle Point woman was killed by a stray bullet while working in her garden. White was then a young prosecutor, and it was the first homicide he ever worked. The culprit (perhaps a hunter) was never identified.”
Fortunately, this didn’t have tragic consequences,” White said to Stewart, “but it certainly could have.”Simmerman said she has no hard feelings, figuring that all’s well that ends well. Stewart should be punished for his carelessness. Even so, she said she personally doesn’t like guns and doesn’t like having them around.”I figure I might shoot myself,” she joked.
Man guilty of flashing stripper
By CHRIS BRISTOL
Talk about role reversal. A Phoenix man accused of exposing himself to a woman who just happened to be an off-duty stripper pleaded guilty Wednesday to public indecency and was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Prosecutors said truck driver Roger B. Kenyon, 35, accosted a Penthouse magazine centerfold who was visiting Medford last August for a weeklong business engagement at Scandals nightclub.
Dakotah Summers told police she was walking to a gym when a motorist pulled up alongside her in the parking lot of the north Fred Meyer and asked, “Do you wanna see this?” The victim said the driver wouldn’t take no for an answer and followed her across the street. He finally drove off when she approached a group of people in the Poplar Square parking lot for help.
Although the victim feared the man might have been a stalker, Kenyon apparently didn’t know who she was, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Minder said.
In court Wednesday, Kenyon disputed some seamier aspects of the case, requesting no jail time. His wife, seated in the front row, repeatedly shook her head in disagreement with the prosecution’s version of events. But Jackson County Judge Ray White was in no mood to mete a slap on the wrist. Kenyon apparently has an out-of-state criminal record that includes sex offenses; authorities wouldn’t say where.”
There’s an old saying, `If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,”‘ White said. “Even in the best light, your behavior here was pretty aggressive.” White also put Kenyon on three years of supervised probation and ordered him to undergo sex-offender treatment.
The victim was not present. She lives in Arizona and regularly travels the national strip-club circuit, Minder said.
Hate crime alleged in bar fracas
DA lacks evidence to prosecute; gay group shocked and appalled
By JESSICA SMITH
Authorities have declined to prosecute a Southern Oregon University student who had been arrested for what police classified a hate crime in connection with an alleged assault on three gay men.
There was insufficient evidence to file charges at this time against Michael Susee, said Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston. The case has not been dismissed, he added. Ashland police are continuing to investigate.
Meanwhile, SOU gay and lesbian advocates expressed disappointment at the DA’s decision and held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the incident.Shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Ashland police arrested Susee, 23, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound former football player for the SOU Raiders. Officers charged him with three counts each of fourth-degree assault and second-degree intimidation after a fight broke out at Kat Wok, 62 E. Main St.
The intimidation charge was issued, according to Ashland police Capt. Lisa Brooks, based on reports indicating Susee assaulted the men because he believed they were gay. While deputy DA Debbie Minder reviewed the case and prepared to set aside the charge Wednesday, Ashland police said they are continuing their investigation.
Brooks said her department will amend their report with the DA’s office as needed.”We’ll do the follow-up that’s necessary because we believe it’s a good case,” she said. Brooks added that police are considering charging another man in the case, but she declined to name him. If the second man is arrested, Brooks said police would modify the charges against Susee to include first-degree intimidation, reflecting the fact that two men were involved in the alleged attack.
Meanwhile, the student director of the Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transgender Alliance said organizers were “obviously disappointed” by the DA’s decision. “But we want to make sure everything is handled properly,” said Jared Sorber. “We hope there will be some resolution in this case.” SOU gay and lesbian advocates lamented Sunday’s incident at a press conference. Sorber told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the LBGTA is “shocked and appalled” at Susee’s alleged assault against the three men. Kat Wok managers apparently kicked Susee and the three men out of the club after they began arguing on the dance floor. The fight moved outdoors, where one man suffered a broken wrist and the others, including Susee, were cut and bruised.
Sunday’s incident is one of a handful local police have labeled as hate crimes.In 1996, a man convicted of murdering two lesbians said their sexual preference motivated his attack. Race played a role in several fights during the 1990s in Medford and Ashland. There also have been reports of anti-Semitic messages sprawled on homes and a mausoleum.
Ashland continues hate crime probe
Ashland police investigating an alleged hate crime say they’ll deliver additional case reports to the district attorney early next week.
Chief Scott Fleuter said Ashland officers were busy Friday interviewing witnesses to an assault on three gay men reported Sunday outside Kat Wok, an eatery and nightclub at 62 E. Main St.
The Jackson County District Attorney’s office declined this week to prosecute one man charged with fourth-degree assault and second-degree intimidation. Police arrested Michael Susee, a 23-year-old Southern Oregon University senior, after the fight broke out about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Susee allegedly assaulted the three men because he believed they were homosexuals, according to officers.
But an initial police report seemed to indicate that both parties were responsible for the incident, said Debbie Minder, the deputy DA handling the case.”At the time, in the initial report, it appeared to be a mutually combative situation,” she said.
The incident apparently was rooted in a dispute on the Kat Wok dance floor between the three men and Susee, police said. Club managers kicked Susee and the men outside, where the fight escalated. One man broke his wrist and three others, including Susee, suffered cuts and bruises. The altercation concerned Kat Wok managers, who issued a statement Thursday decrying the incident and asserting the club does not “condone violence of any kind, whatever the motivation.”
Police have continued to investigate the incident, interviewing witnesses not part of the original report. Fleuter said officers have identified a second suspect in the assault, but they have not arrested the man. Police declined to name the second suspect Friday. But Fleuter said he expects to present the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office with a case update in the next week.
Police close to end in hate case
Plan to hand file to D.A. next week
Ashland police investigating an alleged hate crime against three gay men say they’ll hand their case file to the district attorney early next week.
Debbie Minder, a Jackson County deputy district attorney, kicked the case back to Ashland police after finding insufficient evidence to file charges against a 23-year-old Southern Oregon University student arrested for assaulting the three men April 3. Ashland police charged Michael Susee, a former SOU football player, with fourth-degree assault and second-degree intimidation, a charge associated with hate crimes. Susee assaulted the three men because he believed they were homosexuals, according to officers. The incident apparently was rooted in an altercation on the dance floor at Kat Wok, an eatery and nightclub at 62 E. Main St.
Ashland police said they were considering arresting a second individual. They have declined to name that person. Although Ashland police expected to wrap up the investigation before Friday, Capt. Lisa Brooks said officers had additional witnesses to interview on the weekend. Brooks said investigators are expected to forward their report to the D.A. on Monday. The district attorney’s office is expected to review the case to determine whether to prosecute Susee or make further arrests.
Gay advocates, Kat Wok managers and SOU officials have all decried the incident, calling for increased tolerance within the community. At SOU, students and community members are invited to attend a series of workshops set to provide training in diversity and conflict resolution.