Prosecutors frustrated by county lawyer

Elmer Dickens never explained how he obtained laptops reported stolen from Intel

No criminal charges will be filed against Elmer Manuel Dickens Jr., the Washington County lawyer investigated by the Hillsboro Police Department and the Clackamas County District Attorney's office for theft of laptops belonging to Intel Corp.

Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney for Clackamas County, which handled the case, said there was not enough evidence to prosecute Dickens, a 41-year-old senior Washington County counsel who lives near Gaston.

'It was a complex case,' Horner said.

Dickens, 41, who oversees legal work for the county sheriff's office and the county's district attorney's office, has been employed by Washington County since 1999.

In December of last year a search warrant affidavit filed in Washington County Circuit Court named Dickens and his wife, Tami, an Intel employee at the time, and said they were suspected of selling laptops belonging to Intel on the auction Web site, eBay.

Two computers, bought in May and August 2005 by an internal security investigator for Intel from 'elmersoldstuff' - Dickens' screen name - were reported missing from the company years earlier.

Investigators could not figure out how the laptops came into Dickens' hands, leaving reasonable doubt that Dickens knew the computers belonged to Intel, according to an internal memo written by Bryan Brook, a Clackamas County deputy district attorney.

According to the memo, the laptops were reported missing or lost in 2000 after being assigned to employees in Arizona and Virginia. Tami Dickens, a security business analyst in the finance department for Intel, was not in a position where she would have had access to the laptops, the memo said.

In an interview with an Intel investigator last year, Tami Dickens, 38, said she and her husband 'made exchanges' with people to obtain the computers, but she refused to give a more detailed explanation. Intel suspended her, and she resigned in March 2006.

Both Dickens and his wife refused to meet with investigators or answer questions about the laptops - a constitutional right, but a decision that disturbed the officials enough to document their frustration with Dickens.

'What we are left with is a bizarre and unexplained circumstance,' Brook said in the memo. 'I am disappointed that an assistant county counsel would refuse to … assist in the investigation. His lack of cooperation has impeded this investigation and frustrated law enforcement.

'I am surprised to discover Elmer Dickens has a commission with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.'

County Counsel Dan Olsen said Tuesday that he's not surprised that a lawyer would exercise his legal rights.

'They know that they have a right to talk to their lawyer and that it's up to the prosecutors to prove the case,' he said.

Olsen said that while he's still reviewing the documents from Clackamas County, he 'hasn't seen anything that leads me to think anything is wrong here,' he said.

In the Clackamas County memo, Brook said Olsen talked to Dickens about the investigation and was told by Dickens that there was a 'logical explanation' for how he obtained the laptops. Olsen did not tell investigators what that logical explanation was.

Dickens did not return phone messages for comment on this story or any of the previous stories written about the investigation.

In the search of Dickens' Gaston home and of his eBay activities, the investigators did not find any other lost or stolen property.

'How and when two Intel laptops last seen in the states of Virginia and Arizona over five years ago ended up in Elmer and Tami Dickens' hands remains a mystery,' Brook wrote.

In concluding his memo, Brook speculated that Tami and Elmer Dickens may be covering for someone they know at Intel who did have access to the computers.Bill MacKenzie, spokesman for Intel, said Intel was satisfied with the outcome of the investigation.

'Our feeling was to leave it up to the justice system to make the right decision,' MacKenzie said.