Cop: Block release of alleged sex crime report
Portland Police Officer Alfonso Valadez Jr., who was fired last year over an allegation of off-duty sexual assault, then reinstated in April, is fighting in court to block the report of the investigation from being publicly released.
The legal battle shows how Portland's police union is willing to not just fight for its members' jobs and work conditions. It's willing to fight for their reputation, too, by seeking to bottle up public records that normally would be released. The effect is to shroud details of the case that nearly led to Valadez's firing.
The union, which filed suit against the Clark County Sheriff's Office on Valadez's behalf in January, contends that the case has nothing to do with his job.
"It's a family issue and he wants it to remain that (way)," said Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, adding that Valadez and his wife have two young children who would be harmed by the report's disclosure. "Part of that is, of what interest is it to the public, as opposed to the damage it does to his family?"
Therese Bottomly, director of news for The Oregonian and Oregonlive.com, which is fighting in court for release of the record, said, "We believe basic police incident reports should be disclosed to the public. Appeals courts have held that the public has a right to know even about off-duty conduct by a police officer if that conduct bears on his integrity."
The court battle amounts to a new wrinkle in Valadez's efforts to limit the damage from allegations that have been filed against him in recent years. In 2015, he was investigated for posting a video of himself on the job, patrolling and pushing a suspect into a detox center, while bragging of his toughness. He is currently under investigation over his pursuit of a hit-and-run suspect the wrong way on Interstate 84 in Portland, leading to the suspect's death, as the Tribune reported in April. And earlier this year, his union successfully fought for his reinstatement over allegations stemming from the sexual assault investigation.
Some details of the investigation have already been revealed with the disclosure of the arbitrator's order that ruled Valadez's firing in 2017 by then-Chief Mike Marshman was unjustified. That order was ordered released to The Oregonian and the Portland Tribune in May.
Now the question is whether more details will be revealed about the sex assault investigation — which would help shed light on whether the arbitrator was right to overrule Marshman.
Two years ago, Valadez held a birthday party at his house in Vancouver, with plenty of alcohol present. While some of what happened is a matter of contention, what's undisputed is that he engaged in sexual intercourse with a young woman who was friends with his wife and him, as the young woman lay down in an upstairs bedroom. She later told authorities she had gone to lie down after consuming several drinks and vomiting, and the next day she only gradually remembered what had happened — including that she tried to say no as he had sex with her but could not speak.
After work the next day, the woman went to a hospital and had a rape kit test done. She asked that the blood test be picked up by the Clark County Sheriff's Office, and later said she hoped it would be tested for date-rape drugs, as one nurse told her would be consistent with her symptoms.
But the sheriff's investigator never did test her blood, and closed the case after interviewing 11 people. The investigator cited the fact that the young woman had apparently made similar accusations against other people in the past. No charges were filed.
According to the arbitrator's report, the young woman had engaged in flirty behavior with Valadez and his wife, even joking with them about having sexual relations with both of them. She also sent Valadez suggestive photos.
By the time of the party, she told police she'd decided not to have sex with Valadez, according to the arbitrator. Valadez, meanwhile, portrayed her as coming on to him at the party, and him merely doing as she wished. He claimed she was not intoxicated. Witnesses said they did not notice signs of intoxication.
The arbitration order was released in response to public records appeals by The Oregonian as well as the Portland Tribune.
Meanwhile, reporters with The Oregonian and The Columbian of Vancouver had requested the report of the investigation, which normally would be disclosed. A clerk there prepared to release the entire investigative file, and notified Valadez. That's when Anil Karia, an attorney for the Portland Police Association, sued the sheriff's office in January.
Karia wrote that "disclosure of unsubstantiated sexual allegations made against a person, regarding conduct occurring in a private home, in no way connected to that person's employment, is of no legitimate interest to the public."
The judge has not yet issued a ruling.
Reports like that of Valadez's case are typically released to the public in Portland and Clark County. Turner said this case is more sensitive than most, due to the allegations.
And, he said, "Anybody has that right through the court system to be able to appeal those records being released. It's not just Portland police officers. Anybody has that right."