Court docket busy as trial roster fills up
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - Features
The list of criminal cases being brought to trial has been keeping the county district attorney's staff busy recently. Trials scheduled to begin within the next six weeks or so involve people facing charges that range from Internet theft to kiddie porn, from DUII's to bank robbery.
>Circuit Court judges will be extra busy in the coming weeks as a number of cases that have been delayed for one reason or another get listed on the trial schedule
The only difference, Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown explained, between a simple DUII and a more serious Measure 11 crime is "the luck of the draw." The case Brown was talking about involved 31-year-old Benny Buker Jr.
On a mid December evening last year, Buker was coming into town on Juniper Canyon Road. According to the records, his small car was crossing over the centerline as he came around a corner. A mother and her son, heading southbound in their month-old full-size pickup attempted to move out of the way but ran out of room. When Buker's car struck the pickup, Brown noted, it was almost a head-on collision.
With a blood/alcohol reading well above the legal limit, Buker was charged with two counts of assault and DUII. Because he had no prior criminal history, and had cooperated with the police and was apologetic, Brown said he didn't feel he deserved a Measure 11 sentence.
He was lucky, Brown said. "If the victims hadn't been in a larger vehicle, Buker could easily been facing a much stiffer charge. Judge Thompson gave him 30 days in jail and three years probation. He could get up to three years in prison if he screws up," Brown warned.
Two other cases that have been dragging through the legal process are scheduled for trial in September and a third will probably end up in federal court.
Last March, after an extensive investigation, local police arrested the former executive director of the Prineville Hospital Foundation. Marta Jo Hudson, 47, was arrested on a charge of aggravated theft and booked into the county jail.
Hudson had worked for the Foundation from June, 1999 until December, 2000 when the loss of funds came to the attention of the Foundation. Two accounting firms were hired to conduct an audit of the Foundation's books and those of the Prineville Medical Clinic. Discrepancies found by the auditors and the police department indicated that the theft had been going on for about a year. Evidence indicated that funds for personal purchases were made on the Foundation's credit card.
According to the investigation conducted by the accountant and Police Detective Andrea Vaughn, $22,917.91 was missing. While the offender has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of first degree theft, an agreement on the amount of restitution has held things up. A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 5 and Brown said he expects the amount of restitution will have been settled on by then.
Hudson could also, he added, potentially be sentenced to 60 days in jail on each count.
Trial has been set for Sept. 4, for Powell Butte resident John Charles Adams. Arrested in Bend last July in a sting operation conducted by the FBI, Adams has been charged with crimes involving kiddie porn.
Brown explained that the sting centered on an Internet website that dealt with kiddie porn. Taken over by the federal agency, the FBI had then began identifying people who were buying the merchandise. Adams was accused of ordering a porn video and having it mailed to a post office box in Bend.
Officers from the Oregon State Police, Prineville Police Department along with FBI agents were on hand when Adams picked up his mail.
"He was caught," Brown said, "sitting in his pickup outside the post office with the video in his hand."
Obtaining a warrant, officers searched the accused's home. It was an OSP trooper who, seeing a large CD collection, went through the music disks and turned up 20,000 kiddie porn photos hidden in the collection.
"It is explosive stuff," Brown said, "enough to turn anyone's stomach. Adams has no prior criminal history, but We'll do our best to send him to prison."
Another local arrest with federal impact was the Internet fraud case that made by Prineville police officers.
Early in June, police officers with a search warrant in hand took a local man and his computers into custody on charged of Internet fraud. After conducting a two-month-long investigation Vernon Ray Clump, 33, was arrested on more than 40 counts of theft and computer crime.
The crimes came to light some time ago, when complaints began being filed with the police department from all over the US and Canada. Apparently Clump would advertise items for sale on Internet auction sites, offering to sell computer parts or firearms. The high bidder would then send the money and never get the items.
Crump had allegedly defrauded people of thousands of dollars in the scams. The Prineville Police Department was assisted in serving the search warrant of Crump's home by members of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team. But it was the effort put forward by the Prineville police investigators that got the FBI's approval.
"The police department did a very good job of investigation," Brown said. "The federal officials were very impressed with the way the department investigators had all their ducks in a row."
The US Attorney General's office has agreed to take the case out of Crook County, Brown explained. With victims all over the nation and Canada and the expense of bringing them in for trial, they will handle the prosecution. Clump has been lodged in the county jail since his arrest and a US Marshall is expected to move him into federal custody later this week.
Another trial set for mid-September centers around 40-year-old Kathryn Mitchell, arrested on first degree burglary and theft charges. Brown said the woman was observed entering a residence on Knowledge Street when nobody was home.
The witness called police and when officers arrived, they asked Mitchell if she knew who lived there and, reportedly, she said no. The homeowners arrived, Brown said, reading a report, and "as the police officers were taking her away from the house, the homeowner pointed out that Mitchell was wearing her dress."
When being booked into the county jail, it was discovered that Mitchell was also had a theft of identification charge pending against her from Portland.
Trial in Crook County Circuit Court has been set for Sept. 25.