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With cop-killer, parole board displays its farce

Guest commentary by Randy Sanders


On June 7, the Oregon Parole Board will allow inmate #7430532, Sidney Dean Porter, a convicted cop killer, to walk a free man.

He served just 20 years of a life sentence after beating to death Officer Frank Ward — a John Day police officer — with a piece of firewood, after the officer responded to a call that Porter was beating his wife.

My initial reaction was: Why would a person with a history of documented violent attacks on many people in local taverns, who is beating his wife and goes on to beat to death a police officer, even be considered as a candidate for parole in the first place?

Just 20 years served for violently busting open the head of a policeman with a hunk of firewood, even after the officer’s body fell limp against the wood stove. Officer Frank Ward was doing the honorable and dangerous job of responding to a call, aiding a woman in extreme distress and the cop-killer gets just 20 years. Really?

That’s not much time when you consider it. Twenty years ago NAFTA was signed, Michael Jackson was the King of Pop and the United States Navy only just allowed women to serve on combat ships. Twenty years? Really?

Given that the Board of Parole’s website describes that its decisions are based on “...applicable laws, victims’ interests, public safety and the recognized principles of offender behavioral change,” it seems rather dubious that they would arrive at their decision based on an evaluating psychologist’s opinion of Porter: “Mr. Porter seems to present the classic example of a person who ought not to be released on parole,” the psychologist writes.

But here was the board’s final statement: “Based on the information the board is considering, including the doctor’s report and diagnosis, the board has concluded you do have an emotional disturbance, but it is not so severe as to constitute a danger to the health and safety of the community.”

Ummm, wouldn’t the “doctor’s report” fall under the “victim’s interests” and “public safety” part of your description?

So when the Oregon Department of Justice sent a worthy representative to the hearing to represent you, me and the rest of Oregon’s taxpaying citizens, how exactly did they defend our public safety? Well, Kristin Winges-Yanez, Amber Kaatz and Candice Wheeler — the three-member parole board — never bothered to invite them.

Yes, that’s right: The Oregon Board of Parole never bothered to announce to the Oregon Department of Justice there was to be a hearing on this cop-killer’s parole.

To add insult to injury, one of those parole board members said directly to Sidney Dean Porter, “...you whole-heartedly did not mean for this to happen.” Really? I must say, I am impressed with their talent and ability to become one in mind and spirit with a cop-killer; perhaps they might share with us mere mortals those fiercely guarded secrets of their mind-reading sensibilities?

The sad news is at this point every police association in Oregon, and even a few federal ones, plus countless citizens and even the Oregon House Judicial Committee, have weighed in and it’s now a mute point.

Come Friday, June 7, Sidney Dean Porter gets to leave prison and go to work on a relative’s ranch, out in the fresh Oregon air, with nature and horses and other cool stuff, while we here in Columbia County can only hope and pray the Oregon Parole Board doesn’t rear its ugly head — if and when — that time arrives for the killer of our dear Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter.

Randy Sanders is a St. Helens resident.