What’s with these teachers and coaches?!

Scott Zeigler, Oregon coach charged with sex crimes

I don’t get it.

For the umpteenth time in my 12 years as a reporter, I’ve covered another coach/teacher/teacher’s aide arrested and accused of having sex with an underage student. For 12 years, it’s been different people, same story line. Man in a supervisory role with access to kids abuses that trust and commits sex abuse. Sometimes, it’s a woman. Sometimes, it’s a church. Nearly every time, it is an adult parents have placed their confidence in who winds up violating a sacred boundary.

As reporters, it’s easy to use the word “relationship” to describe these crimes, especially when the timeline of what’s taken place spans one, two, or three years. But isn’t it important to remember what these incidents really are? Neil Goldschmidt taught us that. A grown man doesn’t have a sexual relationship with a minor. He abuses that minor. It’s sex abuse. Let’s not romanticize it.

Arrests like this remind us that the vast majority of molestation doesn’t happen when a stranger grabs your kid off the street. Chances are, you know the abuser. Your kid knows the abuser. The abuser has access to your kid.

The vast majority of teachers, coaches and educators are hard-working, ethical people for whom boundaries aren’t an issue. Sadly, abusers of this trust give other mentors who share their title a bad name.

Let’s celebrate those among us who are the champions of children.

Let’s keep our eyes peeled, our ears tuned to the signs of abuse.

Kids are our most precious investment.

Let’s protect them as such.

Crash

Maybe you’ve seen the movie.

I saw the reality of it today, as I sat in Dean Pace’s home. With his wife of just eight months by his side, he showed me the ten-inch long purple scar down torso, accentuated with the dots where the staples once punctured his skin.

I watched as he got winded just standing, and lamented his inability now to rough house with his 5-year old stepson, Roman.

I observed as a man who has every reason to be angry and bitter toward the 14-year old police say hit him in a stolen van, instead, extolled the virtues of positive thinking.

Dean realizes he has many reasons to be grateful.

He’s alive, out of the hospital, and loved by his family who painstakingly cared for him.

He wonders still about the stranger — a man, he thinks — who came up to the window of his SUV shortly after impact, and asked if he was okay.

But he can’t help think about what was lost. “All of February,” he says. And Valentine’s day. And Roman’s fifth birthday. All transpired while Dean fought for his life in the hospital, with the help of doctors and nurses at OHSU.

The teenager who hit Dean Pace faces felony hit and run charges. See, after the crash, police say he fled from the scene on foot. Investigators say a post on social media led to his arrest the next day, at Sam Barlow High School, where the kid’s a student. The boy’s dad tells me his son’s never been in trouble before. Also, that the family’s had to move because of this.

He says they pray every day for Dean Pace and his recovery.

When I tell him Dean is out of the hospital and mending, a relieved sigh comes through the receiver.

Two families. One fateful afternoon.

Dean Pace shared with me text messages he and his wife, Olga, exchanged that day as he left work. (Olga is freshly emigrated from Russia. They were married just six months when the crash occurred.)

Dean: I’m coming home. I love you!

Olga: I wait you. I love you too.

Olga: Bad traffik?

Olga: I worry. You ok?

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

By then, Dean was en route to the hospital, via LifeFlight.

Deadly Force

This is a report I filed for K-2 examining the training for Oregon State Police troopers when it comes to deadly force, and the criteria they use for deciding when to use it. It followed a man’s 2006 attack on an officer with a knife in La Pine that resulted in the man’s death at the hands of Deschutes County law enforcement. It was also shortly after traffic stop turned shoot-out in Albany between a trooper and a driver he’d pulled over.

It came to mind as I covered the Aaron Campbell shooting settlement, and his family’s cry for change with how police are trained.

Nick Teixeira Wants Out of the State Hospital

The man who, as a teenager, shot Clackamas County sergeant Damon Coates is requesting to be moved from the Oregon State Hospital to a residental treatment facility. In a hearing he requested before the Psychiatric Review Board, the burden of proof is on Nick Teixeira, who’s 24, to show such a transfer won’t pose a risk to the public.

Coates was severely and permanently disabled when Teixeira shot him in the face on January 9, 2003 while he was responding to a call from Teixeira’s parents expressing concern about their son’s behavior. Teixeira was 15.

Two psychiatrists for the state hospital are testifying on behalf of Teixeira, supporting this “next step” in his treatment plan. They say he is not exhibiting signs of mental illness, hasn’t taken prescription medication since 2007 and doesn’t need to. One even said Teixeira’s in “remission” from mental illness.

In the hearing room are the wife and daughter of Damon Coates. Tammy Coates tells me her husband isn’t doing well, that a half-hour long seizure six months ago put in him in the hospital and set back the progress he’s made in speaking and writing.

Sitting directly behind Tammy Coates is Teixeira’s mother, Dawn Gentry. She’s been a staunch advocate of her son, relaying to me the permission he was given to leave the hospital and give a speech at Portland State University as part of his growth and maturation.

Teixeira’s therapist, Dr. Carlene Shultz, cross-examined by the Department of Justice prosecutor Thomas Castle:

Castle: “Has Mr. Teixera told you why he shot Damon Coates in the face?

Shultz: “Perhaps, no.”

Castle: “Do you think that’s important?”

Shultz: Long pause. “He has told me…he has talked about his mental state at the time.”

Castle: “…do you think that’s important?”

Shultz: “Yes. I’m not sure how to answer that.”

Victim statements are allowed in a hearing like this. The first came from Tammy Coates, who looked directly at Teixeira as she said: (paraphrased)

“I still forgive what you did. We don’t live with some horrible hatred or bitterness toward you. It’s been much more difficult since May …Damon hasn’t been able to speak or walk at all. His level of care is now 10 times what it was. Regarding the 20 year sentence, if you didn’t deserve it, they shouldn’t have given it to you. It’s not going to be easy for you…I know it’s going to be difficult for you for years to come. Just to hear you’re able to share your story…is encouraging. Obviously it looks good…in the back of my mind, I wonder if you’re doing it for that reason…but I would never judge your heart on that. You can’t undo that day…as much I’m sure you wish…(not as much as Damon) for that day to be undone.”

Jerry Coates, Damon Coates father told the board:

“You know it’s good that he’s doing good and making progress but in a controlled environment and under supervision, you don’t have to be very smart to know that if you do or say all the right things…you can get out sooner…or get different treatment. Somewhere along the line here we need to discuss justice. Damon was deliberately shot in the face…with every intention of killing him. Somewhere in all of this, there’s supposed to be some justice. My son is as good as dead and our lives are ruined.”

The board deliberated for 15 minutes then announced their approval for Nick Teixeira to receive an evaluation on whether he can go to a secure residential treatment facility in Pendleton.

His attorney promptly congratulated him. The psychiatrists/therapists who testified on his behalf gave each other thumbs up signs.

And Damon Coates’ father asked me outside, “Where is the justice here? They should see my son laying there. I don’t get it.”

Brandon Roy Explainer

If you’re like me, you’re not exactly an expert on NBA salary caps, amnesty clauses and collective bargaining agreements. So maybe this will help.

Given the news on Brandon Roy’s sudden retirement, I sat down this morning with Tom Penn, former Portland Trail Blazers vice-president of basketball operations and assistant general manager. He’s now a commentator for ESPN.

Anna: What does this mean for the Blazers?

Tom Penn: If Brandon chooses to retire, and the medical director for the NBA says it’s a career ending injury — that it qualifies — then a year from his last game, in all likelihood, his salary would completely come off the books. Brandon still gets his money but the salary comes off the salary cap and the luxury tax but that doesn’t happen for a full year.

AC: So that’s relief for the Blazers down the line?

TP: Down the line it does, but it doesn’t give the financial relief that choosing to amnestize him…if they amnesty Brandon and take him off the books, they get luxury tax relief right away for this season. It’s unlikely they get that for this season. It depends on when he comes off the books. If the Blazers still choose to use the amnesty clause, they can remove his salary effective immediately, so it gets them below the luxury tax immediately, and they can spend more money on a free agent right now. If he retires because of medical, they have to wait for that year to run its course and he won’t come off the books until then, so they get more flexibility right now. The advantage of not using the amnesty is they could still use that in a future year on another current player. So they could wait for Brandon’s salary to come off in a year, then they could still amnestize someone else and get more cap space.

AC: Would it be likely for them to do that?

TP: Sure, if they get to a mode where they want to rebuild this team using a lot of cap space. Let Brandon’s money cycle off, choose to eliminate another big salary on the books, go get a glamour free agent.

AC: He’s due 64 million right?

TC: He’ll get every nickel he’s due. He’ll get that whether he’s cut via amnesty or whether he retired medically. The difference is…if he was cut via amnesty other teams had the opportunity to pick him up off waiver and he wouldn’t get to pick which team he goes to, so that might not have been too appealing to Brandon as an alternative.

AC: After this year is up, it’s not that Brandon Roy will never ever play again in the NBA:

TP: That’s an interesting question. Yes, he could always play again. Whether he’s cut via amnesty or whether he retired medically because you can’t ever sign an agreement that prevents the players from coming back for sure, anytime in the future. One of the issues with knees is that you never really know how the knee’s going to react. It’s feasible Brandon could come back for another team in the future.

AC: Final thoughts:

TP: What Brandon’s meant to this franchise, to this city, is really what needs to be celebrated. It’s sad that he’s having to retire early, but what he did for Rip City, reviving it, bringing it back, we owe him gratitude for that. This franchise is in really good shape going forward, but it is sad to see Brandon leave.

Occupy Portland Damage to Parks

As I reported today on the growing costs of Occupy Portland, I learned from City Commissioner Nick Fish that the best estimate for damage done to Chapman and Lownsdale parks is still $19,000 – but that was an assessment done three weeks ago.

Fish says after this weekend’s expected removal of the Occupiers, it will take a week to fully clear the parks of their property, assess damage, and make plans for restoration. He says it could take many months to repair what’s been harmed, and some work can’t be done until the spring.

He says he’s also hearing from the public and local businesses who want to help in that effort — people who support the Occupy Movement with individuals pledging amounts like $15 and $40. Tomorrow, look for a push from the city to donate money for park restoration through the Portland Parks Foundation.

Question: will you or your business put forth cash to help repair the damage to the downtown parks?

Occupy Portland, Inc.

It’s official. Occupy Portland, a movement opposed to corporations and corporate greed, has incorporated — albeit as a non-profit corporation with the State of Oregon. The move was apparently made by members of the group’s finance committee. Yes, the group has a finance committee.

It’s been explained to me that Occupy PDX needed a way to track donations and expenses. It had explored organizing as a 501(c)(4) charity or even as an LLC, but ultimately, it’s decided to register as a non-profit organization.

Here are the papers the group has filed with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Corporation division.

Oregon inmate indicted on murder charges

Inmate indicted on murder

James Samuel DeFrank, Jr. appeared in Malheur County Court Wednesday via video from the Snake River Correctional Institution, according to court sources. He’s charged with murder in the death of fellow inmate Chris Soren Lange.

DeFrank was convicted of murder in Multnomah County back in 1990 for the death of a Vietnamese immigrant during a robbery gone wrong.

Lange’s beating and subsequent death occurred in May but only came to light in August after another incident at Snake River in which an inmate was shot and wounded by a corrections officer.

I asked Jeanine Hahn with the Oregon Department of Corrections Public Affairs department about the agency’s policy on releasing information about inmate deaths.

This was her response: “The Department does not have a policy that speaks specifically to releasing information about inmate deaths, but it is our practice to be transparent on inmate issues and incidents that would be of interest to the media and the public. In this case our office missed the release. There was quite a bit of time between the actual assault and inmate Lange’s death, and our office was involved in several projects during the May/June timeframe, and we truly just missed it. I take full responsibility for this oversight. As soon as the media/we realized the error, we have attempted to communicate as much information about the incident as possible without compromising the integrity of the investigation.”

See the grand jury indictment against James DeFrank here.

Following the Followers

Courthouses are weird places. That’s a given. Especially the outsides of courthouses, where it seems 75% of the population goes for a smoke-break roughly five times a day. Okay, I’m exaggerating. 70%.

I’ve had the unique experience of spending ample amounts of time at the Clackamas County Courthouse, where troubled characters ditch their knives in the bushes, then head in for their hearings. Between the scofflaws, defense attorneys, prosecutors, court staff, security and media types, it makes for terrific spectrum of people watching.

Today, the courtroom of Judge Robert Herndon is filled with people who are presumably here to support the Hickmans. These are men and women I have to think have been here before – witnessing the three other cases in which Followers of Christ Church couples stood trial for crimes involving the care of their children. The women wears dresses or skirts that fall below the knees. At least a few of them wear glasses, which I guess is allowed in their faith.

Neonatology expert Joseph Kaempf is testifying about the death of David Hickman, a baby born two months early. He was born to Dale and Shannon Hickman, members of the Followers of Christ Church, who believe in faith-healing. According to the state medical examiner, David had underdeveloped lungs and a bacterial infection, and only lived nine hours. Instead of intervening with medical help, David’s parents (and other participating in his care) anointed him with oil, and prayed over him. Asked by an investigator about their decision, a detective says Dale Hickman told him it was against his religious convictions to call 9-1-1.

Covering a case like this is eye-opening for me. Testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Joseph Kaempf is explaining how a baby is considered full-term at 37 weeks, with 40 weeks being the average length of a woman’s pregnancy. He says the
death rate of 32-week premature babies born in Portland-area neonatal intensive care units is less than 1%. Meaning, their survival rate is greater than 99%. He’s citing statistics for Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, saying in twelve years, out of 1,071 births of babies born at 31-32 weeks, there hasn’t been a single death from respiratory distress syndrome, or premature lung disease. That’s one of the conditions the State Medical Examiner says caused David Hickman’s death.

Another curious statistic: he says preemies born in a NICU can survive at 23-25 weeks. At 24 weeks, their rate of survival is 40-60%. At 25 weeks, 75%.

He’s addressing too, the controversy over mid-wives, who currently aren’t required to be licensed in Oregon, one the few states in which this leniency exists. At-home births are legal, and don’t required midwives to be licensed, but Dr. Joseph Kaempf says although at-home births with mid-wives can be done safely, it’s not recommended, and absolutely not recommended for a the birth of a preemie.

Worth noting is Dr. Kaempf’s opinion of what caused David’s death, how it differs from the opinion of medical examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson. Nelson concluded that sepsis contributed to the newborn’s death, bacteria in his bloodstream. Dr. Kaempf calls this an “error by the coroner.” He believes strongly that David’s death was caused by his premature lung problems, not sepsis. He says the bacteria found inside of David was located in his air pipe, and that it likely was introduced to his body from the spoon-feeding he underwent after his birth. His birth took place at his grandmother’s home in Oregon City.

Dr. Kaempf points out, a premature baby would never be spoon-fed in a hospital.

On cross-examination, attorneys for the Hickmans focus on how a licensed midwife who serves on the Governor’s board (I don’t know who this is) herself gave birth with the assistance of an unlicensed midwife. Mark Cogan goes on to lay out the mistakes that can happen in child-birth, getting Dr. Kaempt to concede that as a medical professional, he is not infallible.

Cogan also drove home the point, in his line of questioning, that obstetricians as a whole are not infallible, and that they carry some of the highest malpractice insurance rates in the country. In outlining the “shocking rate of infant mortality” in the United States, Cogan says two dozen countries have lower rates of infant deaths.

Cogan: “You have babies that haven’t survived?”
Kaempf: “Unfortunately, yes.”

Additionally, Cogan gets Dr. Kaempf to agree to the idea that especially in hospitals, virulent strains of bacteria exist – adding to Cogan’s argument that these medical environments — and secular medicine overall — isn’t perfect, is susceptible to flaws, and is not danger-free for preemies like David.

Shannon Hickman’s defense attorney, John Neidig, is using Dr. Kaempf’s own published writings against him, noting that some of his peers in the world of pediatrics took issues with his previous stances and disagreed with his findings.

Neidig: “Some of your positions are controversial?”
Kaemf: “Unrelated to this case, yes….”
Neidig: “It had to do with premature children, though.”
Kaemf: “Yes.”

By the way, the current jury has 16 people present. It’s a 12-person jury, but the court lines up four alternates, given the anticipated length of the trial (5 weeks) and the possibility of individuals jurors having to depart the case due to personal reasons. So, all 16 people listen in on testimony. Of the 16, eleven are women. It’s just as curious to watch their expressions, their reactions, to the things that are said in court. Do you think gender of the jury members matter?

Sobering

Spent time today working on one of the most heart wrenching stories I’ve done — seeing both sides of a drunk-driving fatality and the torment this bad decision can create.

Notably, driver Caleb Pruitt wasn’t just drunk. A police report indicated he was “greatly impaired” by marijuana too.

In court, he told the family of Angie Burke he did “everything within his power in those last few seconds to avoid” hitting her. Clearly, he needed to do more. He needed to not have smoked pot at some point, split a bottle of wine with his girlfiend over dinner, then gotten behind the wheel of a Subaru. He needed to not have sped down Barbur Boulevard at an estimated 75 miles an hour.

He also said in court, he never imagined he’d be on this end of the spectrum.

Never imagined?

In 2005, he did the same thing, only he didn’t kill anyone that time.

He was picked up for a DUII, and took a diversion class to avoid a misdemeanor conviction on his record. Yes, the kind of diversion class that force feeds you horrific images of fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers. Like visual shock therapy. The kind of class in which emergency room nurses do their best to help you imagine what could happen if you continue down the path of putting lives at risk.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lowes tells me it’s standard practice in Oregon to offer drunk drivers that diversion class on their first offense, and that usually they spend at least a couple hours in jail after the arrest. It depends on how many other scofflaws are in their company.

The second time around, the conviction goes on their record and they serve either 80 hours of community service or two days in jail, and pay a $1000 fine. If you have two prior convictions within the last 10 years, and you are convicted of your third, that conviction goes down as a felony.

None of us is perfect.

We are human in our imperfections.

I pray that we can all learn something from Caleb Pruitt’s mistakes.

As Judge Michael McShane closed out the sentencing hearing for Pruitt, sending him to prison for five years, he noted the next item on his morning docket — a line of drunk drivers outside the courtroom, 18 of them, waiting to plead guilty. He told Pruitt he planned on keeping the smiling photos of Angie Burke on display in his courtroom for those drunk drivers to see.

Perhaps they’ll be quicker learners than Caleb Pruitt.

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