Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cole Case: Is Justice Delayed, Justice Denied?

Edited 11/23/10

There is an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. Delay is a primary tool of defense attorneys, and it may pay off big-time for Robert Moon and Brian Cole in the year old case of Brian Cole who was charged earlier this year with four counts of sexual abuse and two counts of providing alcohol to a minor. The charges relate to events that are alleged to have occurred between New Years Day and Halloween of 2009.

Link: Accusations of Grand Jury

Brian Cole (right, and friend Bill Harvey, lower left) on way back from lunch during May 21, 2010 first motion to suppress hearing.

In our legal system, minors magically become adults when they turn 18 years of age, even if their minds are quite similar to what they were six months to a year prior. So if you are, say, a then 47 year-old trusted leader in the community, friend of the family, a former Nazarene Sunday school teacher, a valued economic-development consultant, a husband of a girls high school sports coach, a former County Commissioner, and an employer of the victim, and you have behaved in a manner that leads the State to charge you with the above mentioned crimes involving a 17 year old, your best defense is to delay justice until the victim turns 18, several months later. At that time, the victim can ignore the advice of parents and others, and being woefully inexperienced, seemingly ill-advised, and perhaps still smitten, you can make the victim an offer they won’t refuse.

Would defense attorneys do this? Of course they would, because some defense attorneys need to win at all cost. It guarantees their reputations as good defense attorneys, thus providing them a decent living, and questionable high status among their peers.

Last week, after several hail-Mary motions for reconsideration from defense attorney Bob Moon, he introduced a motion to dismiss, based on a “Civil Compromise” that had been forged with the victim, six months after she had reached “adulthood,” and was struggling to finance a well deserved university education in another state. According to the document, the victim “has received satisfaction for injuries incurred from the incidents” and gives up her rights to any further prosecution should she change her mind a year or two down the road when the fog clears. Forget any earlier statements to law enforcement from the victim to the contrary, or any quashed evidence—that means little now. The primary witness has apparently turned against the prosecution after becoming an “adult.”

In this case, the defense threw up smoke screen motion after smoke screen motion to delay the trial long enough for the victim to pass into the magical age of adulthood. Knowing that the victim was susceptible, and given the help of Judge Garry Reynolds, who threw out some of the most incriminating evidence against the accused, derailing the trial seems like a slam-dunk.

Link: Civil Compromise Agreement

Judge Garry L. Reynolds, from Umatilla County (yes, the County where the District Attorney, Dean Gushwa, has been charged with “official misconduct” in a sex abuse case involving an employee, and where Brian Cole has worked recently as a consultant), is scheduled to hear two motions, on Tuesday, November 23, at 10:30 AM, in the Baker County Circuit Court. One motion for consideration is the previous second motion to suppress the evidence, and the other is the motion to dismiss as a civil compromise.

I am hearing that Sean Riddell, an ex-marine who now leads the Oregon Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Division, would still like to pursue the case against Brian Cole, but given the civil compromise document signed by the newly adult “injured party,” and the previous quashing of important evidence by Judge Reynolds, I'm thinking that would be a formidable challenge.

Sean Riddell leaving County Courthouse on May 21, 2010.

I am also advised that Cole had previously offered a civil settlement when the victim was still a juvenile, but the money offered was not seen as satisfactory given the charges and related issues, and so was refused. Sources close to the case are wondering if the defense had approached the victim with a new offer after she became an adult who was legally responsible for her own affairs.

Brent Smith, who is a partner in the firm of Baum, Smith & Eyre, LLC in La Grande, Oregon, is listed in the “civil compromise” as representing the victim in this case, but he was not hired by the parents of the victim. This begs the question of who arranged for his representation, and, of course, who is paying for it. One of Brent Smith's most recent cases was serving as a defense attorney for Kevin Nice, who’s parents live in La Grande. Mr. Nice, a former high school teacher in Pilot Rock, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison in October of this year. He was convicted of luring a minor, one count of third degree sexual abuse, and other charges involving minors. He will also be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life, as Brian Cole would be if he were convicted of the charges against him. (see: Former teacher gets 6 years for sex crime

The issues may ultimately be decided by Judge Reynolds, either next Tuesday, or at a later date if he decides to take more time to issue his opinions. Faced with an apparently "turned," hostile witness, the victim, it is clear, at least to me, that any prosecution at this point will be fraught with difficulty.

Such is “Justice” in Baker County, Oregon.


How long does it take to get a front License Plate?

In Oregon it is a Class D traffic violation if your vehicle was issued two plates and you do not display one in back and one in front. One of the reasons given by Sheriff's deputies for approaching Brian Cole's vehicle when he and the minor were sitting in his vehicle parked at the rural fire station on Halloween night of 2009, was that his vehicle had no front plate displayed. In court, it was made clear that Mr. Cole was not cited for the infraction, even though others are cited for it all the time.

While at the May 21st hearing in Circuit Court, I was told that Mr. Cole had parked his VW Passat on Third Street in front of the County Court House and that it still had no front plate. While Mr. Cole was at lunch with Bill Harvey, I photographed the front and back of his vehicle, which still had no front plate, almost seven months after the original stop.
Back plate of Cole vehicle at court house, 5/21/10.

Still no front plate, 5/21/10.

On August 30, 2010, ten months after the original stop, I saw Mr. Cole's Passat parked between Bill Harvey's office space and the DMV on Tenth Street.
Still No Plate. . . .

On 11/22/10, I observed Mr. Cole's Passat parked near Brian Harvey's office building on 10th street by the DMV. It still had no front license plate.

For other background on this case, see:

Halloween Happenings: Brian Cole Cited for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

Odds & Ends: Brian Cole Case and Environmental Issues

Hells Canyon Early Spring Wildflowers (also, Brian Cole Case)

Cole Case & Baker County Birds


New Photos:
My Flickr Photostream

No comments: