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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 10, 2007 12:09 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland on The Times website. The next post in this blog is Survivor Portland Bureaucracy: Day 8. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Our fearless D.A.strikes again

Criminal charges against a Portland public safety officer for literally kicking someone's butt without cause? It's never gonna happen. But if you read the law, and watch the tape, it's not like it would be all that complicated or difficult a case to make out:

ORS 163.160 Assault in the fourth degree.

(1) A person commits the crime of assault in the fourth degree if the person:

(a) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to another; or

(b) With criminal negligence causes physical injury to another by means of a deadly weapon.

(2) Assault in the fourth degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

* * * * *

ORS 161.209 Use of physical force in defense of a person.

Except as provided in ORS 161.215 and 161.219, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.

Was it "reasonably necessary" for Fire Lt. Robert Bedgood to kick that man after three other firemen had him on the floor? Of course not. But unless and until there's a major change of culture in the county D.A.'s office, even a videotape catching the officer red-handed (or in this case, red-footed) is not enough for charges to be filed:

Deputy district attorney Don Rees said after a nearly four month investigation and review by police and his office, he decided not to prosecute Bedgood because it would be difficult proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he's guilty of a crime.

Bedgood has said he was concerned for the safety of his crew as DeGeorge wrestled to break free -- and protecting others is a legitimate defense, Rees said.

Whatever.

Coincidentally, the next day the city gets around to recommending the firing of a police officer who needlessly shot a man to death. Again, no criminal charges were filed. No criminal charges are ever filed against a cop. Ever. No matter what. Maybe that's the way it is everywhere. It's definitely the way it is in Portland.

Comments (12)

he decided not to prosecute Bedgood because it would be difficult proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he's guilty of a crime.

It would be "difficult"...but why not try? Why not let a jury make the decision of what the "facts" are in this case?

Makes you appreciate why police tend to be cynical about the DA's office, and their unwillingness to prosecute people.

Don't ya think Mike Shurunk--or as some are
now calling him "Mike Skank"--is morping into
a Vera Katz, who in her wanning days prompted
many to think she'd been on the scene just far too
long and it was time for her to go.

When one slips off into their dotage, as it
is obvious the DA is doing, it's time for him
to retire. When he is so addled-brained that
he can't tell the difference between justice
and CYA-Favors to fellow bureaucrats, he is
in sore need of being forced out of office.

How about spearheading a movement to force
his retirement N-O-W! Thanks.

I used to think Mr. Schrunk was an okay guy. His reaction to the whole rubbish affair was pretty decent.

Now, though... I'm sorely disappointed. This incident and the Chasse incident really should have gone in front of a jury. Even if the officers ended up being aquitted at trial, the public needs to see that people in authority can - and will - be held accountable by our courts in the same way that everyone else is.

Yet what Mr. Scrunk is showing us is that a uniform seems to offer extra protection from prosecution. If an ordinary civillian citizen were seen doing the same things as these public servants have been seen doing, would he escape without so much as an assault charge?

I think not.

Probably it's right that our uniformed emergency staff do enjoy some extra protection from conviction for their on-duty actions; we ask a lot of them and we need to give them a little slack. But the determination of when the line has been crossed - particularly in cases as egregious as this one - should not be made by one office or by one man. It should be made in court.

If The DA is not willing to bring a charge of simple assault, in a case as clear-cut and documented as this one, then who in their right mind would believe that this DA is ever going to bring any charge against any public safety official? There's certainly no point believing it's going to happen in a case where the evidence is less clear, which is, I'd guess, all of them.

Mr. Schrunk may have done good work for us in the past, but as far as I can see it's time for him to move on. He's failed of our trust in him.

A long, long time ago, back in the 80s, there was a sentment around this town in prosecutors offices that if you were not losing a quarter of your jury trials you were not doing your job. It meant that if you weren't losing cases, you were only indicting "sure things", and didn't have the willingness to work hard on tough cases.

The trial jury standard for a guilty verdict is "beyond a reasonable doubt", but the standard for a prosecutr and / or a grand jury to prosecute is "probable cause" i.e. is it more likely than not that this potential defendant committed a crime.

The DA's office decision here is incomprehensible. That tape is devastating.

Sure, a jury might be sympathetic to a fire dept. lieut. and bring back a "not guilty" .

So what?

The growing perception in Portland, not just in the left community, that the folks in uniform can get away with almost any behavior, is increasingly corrosive to public confidence in the rule of law, and that is long term very dangerous for our society.

Far more dangerous than the momentary ego hit a deputy DA might take if a jury acquits a defendant.

Schrunk's office is a disgrace.

It's hardly a sudden development that Schrunk's office protects officials (and that's meant not as a comment toward's Jack, who knows this, but a couple of the comments here). Back during the jury of inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of James Jahar Perez, it's showable that Schrunk skewed the presentation to the inquest jury, and there's some sense that he might have done the same to the grand jury.

Combine something like the current case Jack mentions here, where the DA didn't even try, with ones like the Jahar case, where what the DA apparently tried to do was ensure a lack of indictment, and Schrunk has needed to go for quite a long time.

Lisa Naito should stand against him.

Yes uniforms offer extra protection and allow the wearer to use his powers to intimidate those who displease. Witness Sheriff Bernies eliminating a romance rival and now investigating someone with the nerve to file a complaint with the Police Standards folks for his long history of past questionable acts

Thank you for expressing your concerns regarding our decision to decline criminal charges against Portland Fire Bureau Lieutenant Robert Bedgood and Terry DeGeorge.

Before reaching this decision, all of the involved parties had the opportunity to meet with attorneys in this office to discuss the merits of a criminal prosecution from their perspective.

Terry DeGeorge, through his privately retained attorney, has indicated that he does not wish to pursue criminal charges in this case against Robert Bedgood. Instead, Mr. DeGeorge is seeking a civil remedy through a lawsuit, and is working with his attorney who is in contact with attorneys for the City of Portland.

Robert Bedgood, through his attorney, has also stated that he does not want Terry DeGeorge charged with a crime.

In addition to the expressed desires of Terry DeGeorge and Robert Bedgood a number of other factors were weighed in reaching a final decision not seek a criminal conviction in this matter. Those factors and other information about this case are summarized in the attached memorandum.

Thank you again for expressing your concerns about this matter. I hope this information is helpful to you.

MEMORANDUM

To: Mike Schrunk

From: Don Rees

cc: John Bradley, Norm Frink

Date: May 8, 2007

Subject: State v. Terry DeGeorge, State v. Robert Bedgood


This case was reviewed for potential criminal charges of Interfering with a Firefighter (ORS 162.257) a Class A misdemeanor against Terry DeGeorge; Harrassment (ORS 166.065) a Class B misdemeanor against Robert Bedgood and Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree (ORS 166.025) a Class B misdemeanor against Terry DeGeorge and Robert Bedgood.

The potential charges arise from an incident documented in Portland Police Bureau case number 07-3442. The conduct of DeGeorge, a resident of the Fairfield Hotel, and Bedgood, who is a Portland Fire Bureau Lieutenant, was witnessed by several civilians and Portland Fire Bureau Personnel. In addition, a portion of their conduct was captured by two different surveillance cameras.

Factual Summary:

The case may be summarized as a 9-1-1 medical call where Portland Firefighters and paramedics from American Medical Response responded to the Fairfield Hotel Lobby a few minutes past midnight on January 11, 2007 to a call that someone was having a medical emergency. When the firefighters entered the lobby of the hotel DeGeorge began yelling profanities (“forty-eight fucking years, forty-eight motherfucking years…you motherfuckers!”) at them and ultimately a physical struggle ensued between DeGeorge and firefighters Resch, Bradford and Miller. During the struggle, Bedgood called out “code red” requesting emergency police assistance. After that, Bedgood delivered three kicks to DeGeorge’s leg while DeGeorge continued to struggle with firefighters.

DeGeorge initially indicated that he wished to pursue criminal charges against Bedgood, but in a letter dated May 2, 2007, submitted by his attorney, DeGeorge indicates he is “withdrawing his request” to prosecute Bedgood.

Careful consideration of this case included meetings with DeGeorge, and Portland Firefighters Resch, Bradford and Miller. Additionally the following actions were taken:

• Reviews of the interviews with each eyewitness to the incident, including DeGeorge and Bedgood
• Analysis and electronic enhancement of the digital video images from two different perspectives in the lobby
• Review of statements made by DeGeorge to various local news media
• Review of BOEC recordings

Terry DeGeorge

In describing the incident to the Portland Tribune (January 12, 2007) DeGeorge said he was “angry” about a commotion in the lobby of the Fairfield caused by firefighters. He stated “I think my rage led to their rage.” DeGeorge states the firefighters turned a verbal confrontation into a physical confrontation.

According to PPB Officer Hastings, DeGeorge told him that he went into the lobby when the firemen arrived “looking for a fight.” Officer Hastings further reports that immediately after the incident DeGeorge was “very apologetic” and “admitted that he shouldn’t have fought with firefighters,” stating that “he has an anger problem.”

DeGeorge’s conduct was apparently unprovoked and unjustified. In light of his actions, both verbal and physical, the response and use of some limited physical force by firefighters Bradford, Martin and Resch appears reasonable.

Robert Bedgood:
Bedgood states he perceived DeGeorge as “a big strong guy” who was angry, screaming and fighting. Bedgood states he was concerned for the safety of his crew and believed DeGeorge was a threat. Bedgood states he kicked DeGeorge “with the side” of his foot to make DeGeorge “quit fighting.” Bedgood, a firefighter since 1996, notes that firefighters do not receive training similar to police defensive tactics. Bedgood further states that he has rarely called out a “code red.”

There is no evidence the kicks delivered by Bedgood caused any physical injury to DeGeorge. DeGeorge states both of his knees were sore after the incident, but is uncertain whether from kicks or falling down and landing on his knees. I asked Mr. DeGeorge’s attorney for any medical reports that could have clarified the extent of any injury, but as of this date, I have received no such reports.

At trial, the State would have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Bedgood was not justified in using some physical force under these circumstances and that the defense of a third person (ORS 161.209) did not apply. It would be difficult for the state to disprove the lawful use of physical force in this case.


Conclusion:
Factually, there is sufficient evidence to potentially prosecute both DeGeorge and Bedgood for their conduct on January 11, 2007. In practice, however, the fact that
DeGeorge and Bedgood share dual roles of both victim and defendant in the same case weighs against prosecution. The prosecution of either individual will require the testimony of the other.

Through their attorneys, DeGeorge and Bedgood have expressed to this office that neither wishes to pursue criminal charges against the other individual. Additionally, DeGeorge, through his attorney, has also indicated that he is seeking a civil resolution to the incident through litigation with the City of Portland.

Although a complainant’s wishes can never be the sole factor in assessing the state’s interest in pursuing a criminal prosecution, in this case, given the facts and circumstances outlined above, the parties desire to avoid criminal prosecution and to seek resolution in a civil context weighs against filing charges. This matter between DeGeorge and Bedgood can best be handled by the legal representatives of the two people involved and those of the Portland Fire Bureau through the City of Portland.


A victim who does not want to see charges brought certainly does not help a criminal case. In the Bedgood incident, I can see how that would have influenced the decision.

Why did DeGeorge change his mind about pressing criminal charges? Is it a legal strategy for his civil case? In what way?

Gee, I wish that normal citizens had the same ability to use the excuse of "I was in fear of my life" before blowing away unarmed, mentally ill, naked and otherwise harmless people like not only The People's Republik of Portland cops do, but ALL cops nation wide.

We as citizens don't have that luxury now do we? And you know why? Becuase that would allow all us citizens to defend ourselves against a-holes like this jacka** fire fighter with whatever amount of force we felt necessary. I'm sure that the fellow that was being held down by three firefighers while being kicked half to death was "in fear of his life."

Sort of like The People's Republik of Portland cops did a few years back when, after firing over 100 rounds into a quiet, dark neighborhood at two-ish in the morning and only hitting the "suspect" once in the buttocks, because "We were in fear of not only our own lives, but those of the citizens of this neighborhood that the suspect, who was minutes earlier armed with a 40oz on a bus, was running away from us, into."

Whatever...


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