Rarely does a day go by that I don’t see something in the newspaper, or on the news announcing the long list of felony charges belonging to the latest axe murdering arsonists let go by the Lane County Sheriff’s office. The culprit in every story is the same…”Released due to jail overcrowding caused by a lack of adequate and stable funding”. Just yesterday, on the front page of the City County section of the Eugene Register Guard the latest bad guy let go was accused of throwing lit Molotov cocktails thru the window of his ex- girlfriend’s apartment (lighting the building on fire) then in his rush to leave, hitting several other cars and then a building before being arrested for DUII, Arson, Drug Possession and everything else they could think of.
“Wow”, I thought… “If they are letting guys like this go then there must really be a problem” …right? ….Wrong! Oh we definitely have a problem …no doubt about it. But the problem isn’t a lack of money or a bed …the problem is a complete and utter lack of responsible judgment both by the jail staff and the Lane County District Attorney’s office who appears to have agenda that places more importance on punishing men accused of domestic violence than in public safety. I don’t say this lightly.
I have recently spent numerous hours on OJIN (Oregon Judicial Information Network) and studying the online jail roster and what I discovered was shocking, and I believe illegal or at least completely unethical. Here is what I found:
In addition to the obligatory collection of parole violators, drug addicts, murderers, thieves and sex offenders who occupy about 50% of the available jail beds…I was surprised to discover that the other 50% were taken exclusively by men who had been charged, but not convicted of some combination of domestic violence crimes (Assault IV APA – Felony, Menacing (arguing), and stalking) …which coincidentally are the same crimes for which there is a glut of federal money available thanks to the billion dollar federal boondoggle called “VAWA” (The Violence Against Women Act). There is alot of money in play through this program and Lane County is literally diving to the bottom of the dumpster to get their hands on as much of it as they can, and they are doing it at the expense of our Constitutional rights.
“Oh come on … the people you are talking about are the people sworn to uphold the same rights you claim they are denying people…give us some specific examples or shut the f*&^ please!”
Imagine this: Ordinary legal citizens with no criminal record arrested in the middle of the night, thrown in jail on false or grossly overstated charges never to see the inside of their homes again. Show trials with predetermined outcomes. Dissidents thrown into jail on the weakest of evidence. After they are arrested and jailed they are left there on “No Bail Holds” (denied even excessive bail) for 30…60…90….and up to 180+ days, all before they have ever been convicted of a crime. Does this describe the Stalinist purges? Totalitarian repression? The USA Patriot Act in action? Obama’s FEMA Camps? No this nightmarish scenario is the current state of Lane County’s domestic violence charging strategy and what it amounts to is a declaration of war on the Constitutional rights of men.
In many of these cases, by the time the alleged perpetrator ever gets the opportunity to defend himself on the charges at hand ….he will have already served more time in jail than if he had already been tried and convicted. Currently almost 50% of the county’s available beds are being occupied by men who have been charged with “Class A Misdemeanors” or “Class A Misdemeanors upgraded to Class C felonies under some sort of domestic violence constellation of charges and are sitting in jail that no amount of money can bail them out of …seriously!
What’s sickly ironic is that their unlawful incarceration without bail is the reason that 90% of these alleged ‘perps’ plead guilty whether they are or not. After ‘sweating’ these men and ‘softening them up” with a 60 day taste of jail …without bail…and without being convicted of any crimes, the District Attorneys Office offers to let them plead guilty to one of the charges with a sentencing recommendation of ‘time served’ and tells them they could be released the next day. After being softened up for 60 days these men are willing to say or do anything to get out. By the time it takes the DA to extort a guilty plea out of them and they are finally released what they find is that they can no longer go to their home (or rent a new one), see their children, they have lost their job and their lives have been trashed. You want specifics? Here is a classic example using the exact facts surrounding a man who is currently in the Lane County Jail. This man has no criminal record whatsoever (except for traffic tickets)
This is the case of State of Oregon vs Johnson (Not their real names). The Johnsons are a middle class family. Mr. Johnson has no criminal record whatsoever and the Johnson’s have been married for 20 years, they have two children: a 13 yr old girl named ‘Elizabeth’ and a 14 year old boy named ‘Roger’. One night Mr. Johnson comes home and gets into an argument with his 13 yr old daughter which ends with her screaming “let go of me…you are hurting my wrists” which he had grabbed onto during this event to get her to stop flailing around at him and to calm her down. Since misery loves company his wife ‘Amy’ sees the last bit of this and jumps on the daughter’s side. They argue briefly, and Mr. Johnson brushes past her using his right arm to sweep her out of his way as he leaves the house. When Mr. Johnson let go of his daughter she immediately ran into her bedroom… shut the door… and called 911… I think you see where this one’s going … Mr. Johnson was arrested that night (Late February) and for the conduct described above he was charged with 3 Felonies and 1 Misdemeanor…Even though:
-No one got hurt. Growing up most of us were punished more severly (with a paddle) than the Johnson girl was.
-No one sought out medical attention…because no one was even close to needing it…and in fact refused any need for it to law enforcement.
This happened 2 months ago and Mr. Johnson, with no prior criminal record sits and rots in jail …on a “no bail hold”…2 months later while the Molotov throwing attempted murderers are out breathing free air? This isn’t just an isolated incident of extremely poor prosecutorial discretion…it is the same for everyone charged with DV. How is this even possible?
I am not saying that none of these men aren’t guilty (just Mr. Johnson?) …far from it. What I am saying is that it’s not the District Attorney’s job to charge convict and punish anyone accused of a crime …and thats what they are doing. Who needs judge’s or juries when you have DA’s doing everyone’s job for them? Oregon law is very clear that everyone accused of a crime (with very few exceptions) is entitled to reasonable bail that will ensure their attendance at trial and will keep the community safe. Here is what it says about who gets released on their own recognizance, who gets bail and who get’s held without bail:
Article I, section 14, of the Oregon Constitution, provides:
“Offences, except murder, and treason, shall be bailable by sufficient sureties. Murder or treason, shall not be bailable, when the proof is evident, or the presumption strong.”
Further, Article I, section 16, of the Oregon Constitution provides that “excessive bail shall not be required.” The provision from section 14 creates a right to bail similar to what was available the constitution was originally adopted. Knutson v. Cupp, 287 Or 489 (1979). Knutson sets out text from the mid-nineteenth century Deady Code, which, the court holds is instructive as to what the framers meant by Article I, section 14. The old statutory text is just about providing property to court, or a surety, in exchange for release. There’s nothing about giving up drinking, moving out of your house, not touching firearms or small children, or peeing into a cup.
ORS 135.255 provides:
The defendant shall not be released from custody unless:
- The defendant files with the clerk of the court in which the magistrate is presiding a release agreement duly executed by the defendant containing the conditions ordered by the releasing magistrate
- Deposits security in the amount specified by the magistrate in accordance with ORS 135.230 to 135.290. (formatting added.)
Notice that it doesn’t say anything about overcharging people and then denying them bail to soften them up to take any deal that gets them out. Mr. Johnson’s criminal history makes him an “I” and the severity of the alleged crimes on the “Crime Scale” (an “3-6”)
Even when the facts clearly show the man is not an abuser (and perhaps the woman is), prosecutors refuse to drop charges. “No-drop” policies are a great publicity tool, and a way to ensure more funding. Charges that would never see the light of day if they happened between strangers on the street (accidentally bumping against someone when walking by), are routinely charged as DV “assault.” (But only if the man does it to the woman; a man can be bleeding from a head wound and he won’t be considered a victim).
So back to the wholesale denial of rights currently happening in Lane County Oregon…The DA’s office has come up with a fool proof recipe for maintaining a conviction rate far above the national average for Domestic Violence allegations …and here it is:
1. For every domestic violence allegation …if the police are required to respond then the husband is to be arrested. The “victims” word is good enough to justify the arrest even if no physical evidence exists
2. Once the “abuser’ is safely in the Lane County Jail overcharge him and double charge him … never release him on his own personal recognizance and violate his right to bail by holding him without bail.
3. For his first 30 days of captivity keep him locked up in his cell for 22 1/’2 hours a day with no TV or reading materials …this will give him a chance to reflect on where he is and when he is going to get out and will soften him up for the coming guilty plea…
4. At his 45 day call hearing/settlement conference offer him the chance to plead guilty and depending upon the other factors offer to let him out if he pleads guilty to at least 1 felony and after he agrees make him sit for at least another week. Shazam the system has just created another felon!
Like I said above, this hasn’t just been happening in a few of the DV cases that are totally bogus …there are currently 33 men who have been charged with the standard DV charges of Assault IV (Felony) Assault III, Menacing, violating a Restraining Order etc. of those 33 men exactly zero have had a bail figure set or are otherwise bailable…If you lit your girlfriend’s apartment and building on fire in an attempt to kill her with a snoot full of alcohol and a pocket full of meth and hit a couple of other people / cars / buildings while you were trying to escape … no problem …in fact don’t even worry about paying any bail at all they will just give you the ankle bracelet… but if your wife calls 911 and tells the dispatcher that she is “frightened by your anger” etc. then expect to be arrested and to be charged with DV, Menacing and others and don’t worry about coming up with bail money because you will not have any bail set for you until you are willing to plead guilty to something…
It’s time to stop systematic violence against civil rights and recognize that even well-intentioned laws can be used as a bludgeon. Like the war on terrorism, the war on domestic violence can go too far.
The laudable goal of ending domestic violence cannot justify nullification of the fundamental rights of an entire gender. We should all be outraged at what is being done to innocent people in the name of helping victims.
Remember …If you have to fight for your rights in front of a judge, you’ve already lost.