Jail deputy won't face prosecution for online comments
Investigation finds no crime by man who bragged about injuring inmate
A Multnomah County jail deputy will not be prosecuted after bragging online about crushing an inmate's eye socket and about how enjoyable it is to Taser people.
Corrections Deputy David B. Thompson's claims were posted on an Internet message board and revealed by the Portland Tribune last September, triggering a criminal investigation.
However, detectives were not able to prove any criminal wrongdoing, and the 10-year veteran told detectives his comments were 'grandiose over exaggeration,' according to a memo to the sheriff's office written Monday by Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Don Rees.
According to Rees' memo, Thompson faces an internal affairs investigation as well as a probe by the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which has the power to strip the deputy of his badge.
In his posts, using the screen name Trafalgar, Thompson suggested that inflicting pain in the course of his job gave him pleasure.
'Seeing someone get TASER'd is second only to being the guy pulling the trigger,' Thompson wrote on an Internet message board Aug. 25. 'That is money. Puts a smile on your face.'
The board was affiliated with the subscriber-only, Internet role-playing game called 'City of Heroes.' In the game, players create superhero characters and choose from an array of powers with which to fight villains. However, Thompson's comments purported to describe his real-life job as a corrections deputy, which he relayed to other message board members.
The criminal investigation focused on whether Thompson had criminally assaulted an inmate, and was sparked by a thread discussing the subject of the use of police force. Describing himself as a cop, he expressed bewilderment why someone would 'back talk' an officer who 'has a bunch of buddies who wanna beat someone down so they have a story to tell.'
A self-described ex-cop in North Carolina boasted of having 'taken down' a 'brother that was hyped up on PCP' with six other officers.
'No cameras around tho,' he wrote, adding a smiley face to punctuate the comment.
Thompson responded, 'sweet, had my share of those.'
He also wrote: 'I crushed a dude's eye socket from repeatedly punching him in it, then I charged him with menacing and harassment (of me).'
Trafalgar then added, 'he took a plea to get away from me. He shoulda picked somebody else to try and fight.'
Violating workplace policies
According to Rees' memo, detectives confirmed the conclusions of the Tribune article, that Thompson's 'eye socket' comment referred to an incident in May 2005, when Thompson accused inmate David Michael Baker, now 25, of having assaulted him after having complained about garbage in his cell.
Baker, for his part, denied instigating the brawl, telling an investigator that he was seated in his cell when Thompson entered, grabbed him by the collar and 'began hitting him in the eye and the right side of his face.'
Based on Thompson's version of events, Baker was charged with menacing and harassment, and eventually pleaded guilty to attempted assault of a police officer.
According to Rees' memo, detectives re-interviewed Baker and he repeated his claims that Thompson assaulted him without provocation. Baker declined to take a polygraph, for reasons that Rees' memo does not relate.
Rees wrote that Thompson's claims to having exaggerated were buttressed by medical records showing that Baker's eye socket was not crushed; rather, he suffered a bruised and swollen eyeball.
According to the 'City of Heroes' site, Thompson's subscriber account was responsible for more than 1,700 comments on the message board. In one comment, Thompson, a 10-year veteran of the sheriff's office, boasted that all his 'City of Heroes' activity was conducted from work. Based on the starting date of his account, that translates to 13 message board posts per shift, though it is unclear how many of those took place during breaks.
His pursuits did not seem to have offended his coworkers. In one post, while discussing having unwittingly viewed a pornographic gag video supplied to him by another player, he wrote: 'You know what is really f'd up, I'm a cop and this is in the office. The other guys laughed hysterically.'
On Aug. 30, within hours of being supplied a Web address for the posts by the Tribune, sheriff's officials confirmed that Thompson's MCSO Internet account had been used to access the 'City of Heroes' message board on the days in which Trafalgar made the posts in question.
Now that the criminal investigation is over, the sheriff's office will conduct an internal investigation to see whether Thompson's activities violated workplace Internet policies.
When contacted by the Tribune at work and asked about the Trafalgar posts on the 'City of Heroes' site, Thompson at first responded by saying twice, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' Then, he said, 'I'm familiar with that game, but I'm not going to talk to you about it or anything else.'
The state public-safety board investigation will consider whether Thompson's behavior raised questions about his fitness to be a cop. That investigation is likely to consider comments such as the one in which, having described himself as a law enforcement Taser trainer, Trafalgar wrote that 'Big mouth skank = perfect TASER candidate.'
When another player remarked that Trafalgar is lucky to be able to Taser people, he responded, 'Yes I am. My job is sweet sometimes.'
Official says 'zero tolerance'
Last fall, Phil Anderchuk, president of Thompson's union, told the Portland Tribune that use of force is part of his members' jobs, since corrections officers often deal with uncooperative and even assault-minded inmates.
But, he said, 'If a member is bragging about beating up people and is taking pleasure in beating on people, that is wrong and we certainly don't condone that.'
Sheriff's records show that Thompson has reported using force 61 times while on the job. However, after the Tribune article, he was transferred to a post where he would not have any contact with inmates.