September/October Issue 1999
NEWS, COMMENTARY, OPINION AND SATIRE
The opinions expressed in this newsletter have not necessarily been endorsed by the JCTA board-of-directors. JCTA will correct any errors upon submission of documented facts. Compiled and written by Investigative Reporter John Taft
THE MICHAEL OWENS STORY AS TOLD TO REPORTER JOHN TAFT.The allegations in the following letter are serious enough that JCTA recommends the county commissioners and county risk manager appoint an investigator to sort out the facts and determine what the truth is. The following is Mr. Owens' letter:
On Thursday morning October 6th, on or about 1:00 AM, two deputies one male and one female, came to my cell with some backup officers. I was taken to an isolation cell and told by the male deputy and female deputy to strip as they wanted to do a contraband search. I was told to spread my private parts while the female deputy watched. I was then told to bend over and spread cheeks. That's when they jumped me and knocked me to the floor. I landed on my face and was dazed. The male deputy got his foot on the back of my neck and held me there. I didn't resist. The female deputy then kneed my back in the ribs and kidney area several times while I was naked. Again, I offered no resistance and was in pain from this unwarranted attack by the female deputy.
Next they threw me my clothes and told me to get dressed. Then they took me to an isolation cell and placed me in ankle shackles, wrist shackles, and a belly shackle and left me in this position for seven or eight hours. I was refused water, I was not allowed to be released to go to the bathroom. I had to eventually urinate in my pants. That is an unpleasant experience.
When the shackles were later taken off, the deputy jokingly remarked he almost broke his key opening the locks as my flesh under the shackles had swollen so much that it was difficult to turn the key.
I was accused of having contraband, which included a pillow, an extra towel, and two blankets. These items were taken from me and later returned as I had a doctor's order for them. They beat me up, chained me down and did all this crap because of the things they just brought right back to me I'm allowed to have. They did find a broken paper clip under my mattress. I don't know where it came from or how long it might have been there.
The female deputy who kneed me is the deputy I recently filed a sexual harassment charge against. She said while making a jail count, "Nice ass, Owens; backup where I can see it." I refused and filed a complaint. The same male deputy that later held his foot on my neck said, "Owens, too much written stuff comes out of this cell." An official reply to my complaint took no action against the deputy.
I believe my beating was a result of the sexual harassment charge and talking to John Taft. One decent deputy told me that what they did was out of line. He said everyone is edgy because of what's being said about the jail.
Signed, Michael Owens
Comments from John Taft: The story Mr. Owens has told me is difficult to believe. Yet, I saw the handcuff marks on his wrists Saturday. So the hand cuffing appears to have taken place. The sexual harassment complaint appears to be factual as I am aware of the administration's response. There does appear to be a motive as both individuals have had previous antagonistic contact with Owens. Another prisoner did confirm the time Owens was removed from his cell. The jail's nurse allegedly got Mr. Owens signature releasing the jail of any responsibility if anything were to happen to him. When I first talked to Owens his voice was depressed. He would have to be a very good actor to carry this off if he were deceiving me. Sheriff Daniel does refuse to allow me to see the inside of the jail. He has allowed other reporters into the jail. The sheriff refuses to answer my correspondence.
Owens does have a brain aneurysm and any abuse could be dangerous to his health. Newsline has warned the county of possible health risks to several men named in a report and the county's possible liability. I do not doubt the validity of Owens' statements as I have talked to many men both in and out of the jail system and find an unfortunate consistency in their statements.
Mr. Owens, by being forthright with me, appears to have placed himself in great physical jeopardy. He told me he fears reprisals from jail staff for disclosing this information to me.
JCTA recommends the following points be carried out immediately.
1. No female guards shall be allowed in the JoCo jail to make contraband checks on nude male prisoners. No female deputies shall be in the jail around nude men, this includes the showers, toilets, or when the men are changing clothes.
2. An immediate investigation into the allegations of Mr. Owens must be conducted. The results are to be made public.
3. There shall be no sexual harassment of the men by female guards in the jail. There shall be no sexual banter by female guards directed at the men prisoners.
4. A liaison for the public and media to talk to other than Dave Daniel or Gordon Williams shall be provided.
5. JCTA strongly suggests that Owens not be transferred from the JoCo jail until these issues are resolved. If this is done it will certainly appear Daniel has something to hide.
JOCO'S JAIL ADMINISTRATOR, DANIEL, FLIPS OVER ALLEGATIONS IN ABOVE LETTER. Thursday October 14th: Owens' letter draws Dave Daniel into JoCo's dungeon of sewage overflows. Daniel told Owens he is scheduled to get out next month. Owens has repeatedly told me he is scheduled to get out in Feb. '00. This would seem to be a not so subtle message, to Mr. Owens, to shut-up.
Saturday October 16, '99: Early in the afternoon I entered the jail's dingy small sign up room for visiting prisoners. Investigative reporter Michael Sieradzki was already there and informed me he was banned from visiting prisoners. I rang the intercom and spoke to a Deputy Vincent. I asked if the Sheriff had placed a restraining order against me. He said, "He wouldn't go so far as to say that," but there was a memo from Daniel that I was not to be allowed to see prisoners.
It would appear Mr. Daniel is desperate to keep the allegations described in the above letter from getting into the mainstream press. In fact Daniel may be considering having Owens transferred to another facility in the near future. I think Daniel has shut the barn door after the goat got out. If Daniel wants his goat back he should call me.
I believe Daniel has deprived us of our Constitutional first Amendment Rights by attempting to silence the press and prevent a number of serious allegations from being investigated.
This is the same man who assures us he will protect our Second Amendment Rights. Updates of this politically explosive attack on constitutional rights in JoCo will be carried on Newsline (541) 474-2968.
DID THE ACTIVISTS RUN DA THOMPSON RUN OUT OF TOWN?Local Commissioner Candidate Paul Walter was apparently the first to be informed of Thompson's exit. Jody Vaughn reportedly said, "I hope you're happy; Tim Thompson is leaving."
Mr. Thompson has been a political activist during his several years as JoCo DA. This has brought him into conflict with many individuals. These conflicts, as I see it, were of his own creation. For example the $1,000 bounty placed on his head by the Oregon Observer over the "Drug Challenge" may have been the straw that broke his tenure with JoCo.
Perhaps Mr. Thompson, who is intelligent and articulate will learn from this experience and have a different point of view in administering his new job.
DID SEVERAL LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS SELL OUT TO A SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP?Many of our locally elected representatives gave their names and elected titles to a special political interest group prior to a recent recall election. These individuals made this conscious choice to gave their public credibility away. Among those who allegedly sold out and at the same time slapped thousands of voters in the face were: Sheriff Dave Daniel, District Attorney Tim Thompson, Assistant DA Jody Vaughn, many other individuals in the criminal justice system, Representative Carl Wilson, Senator Brady Adams, Mayor Gordon Anderson and many of the Grants Pass City Council.
When the attorneys comprising most of the "Committee to Retain Judge O'Neal," a political special interest group, approached these elected officials they signed on the dotted line giving away their right to represent all the people. On this fateful day each elected official who gave his signature to the attorneys became, in my opinion, the epitome of a political demagogue. Sheriff Daniel admits the signature gatherers came to his office in the justice building. This is a taxpayer funded building to conduct public business not the affairs of special political interests. Note, Daniel didn't kick them out, or say meet me at your office. He told me he signed in his office. How many of these apparently questionable activities have the sheriff and others engaged in?
The Daniel first claimed he didn't authorize his title to be used by this group. During a meeting I pushed the issue and asked him why he didn't issue a public retraction. His retort was that, "It really didn't matter" that the committee had used his title of sheriff. In other words they had the Daniel's approval.
Interestingly, I spoke to two witness, one a petitioner, who claimed Daniel was asked to sign a recall petition at the JoCo fairgrounds during a gun show. As far as I know, neither one has a reason to lie about this incident. Daniel is reported to have declined and said, "I have to remain neutral. "I asked Daniel about this and he replied, "It never happened." Maybe it didn't, maybe Daniel forgot, maybe he didn't want to remember. Maybe the reader will have to draw his own conclusion.
The final point is each elected official who gave away his elected title is funded by all of us. We pay county, state, and federal taxes. We pay for their nice monthly salaries, benefits and retirement. When the above mentioned people retire, they can never say they served the public for 20-years more or less. Their only claim to fame will be I served a special interest group for many years.
To their credit Commissioners Jim Brock, Frank Iverson and County Legal Counsel Steve Rich did not give away their elected titles. They still represent all the people. Though Commissioner Haugen didn't sign the O'Neal support sheet, he was reported to be wearing a Judge O'Neal button in the JoCo Courthouse. If this is incorrect I'll be glad to print a retraction, Mr. Haugen.
JUDGE NEUFELD FINES TAXPAYERS AND SENTENCES MAN. In this case the jury found the man guilty, and the judge gave him 50-years. The cost of housing a prisoner in a state facility varies depending to whom you talk. Considering $27,000 annually to be more or less the cost to house a prisoner, the state is asking the taxpayers to pay the system about $1.3 million dollars.
Oregon Bar Association (OBA) member Kevin Mannix was so successful with Measure 11 he is back again with measures 69-75 which could give DA's and judges more power than ever. All appear to be unconstitutional and shouldn't be supported according to some sources. If these measures pass, some members of the OBA will have hit a cash jackpot better than the state sponsored lottery.
JOCO JAIL STAFF HARASS INVESTIGATORS VISITING PRISONERS.Jail staff appear to have taken it upon themselves to make the job of talking to prisoners more difficult. It seems underhanded processing of requests to visit prisoners is the way the sheriff's department operates with the consent of the top administration. That's Jim Reese, Gordon Williams and Dave Daniel.
1. When a request is made to see two prisoners in separate time segments, two prisoners are sent in at once for the investigator to talk to.
2. Requests to see prisoners are ignored until the deputy hidden behind a two-way mirror is confronted. The deputy after the fact then admits to being at fault.
3. The deputy claims the prisoner doesn't want to see the investigator. When a prisoner was later asked about this, he said it wasn't true.
The JoCo sheriff department's staff and administration apparently are desperate to keep what goes on behind steel doors secret from the public.
I have heard some say the jail is run with a gestapo mentality. Perhaps they are using too harsh a term. Then again one can only wonder before drawing a conclusion when he hears or reads the Michael Owens story. Mr. Owens alleges he was beaten in the JoCo jail on Oct. 6th. The story is in this newsletter and see the November issue of the Oregon Observer available soon.
PUBLIC TO BE HOSED WITH A GASOLINE TAX? JCTAencourages the taxpayers to be fully informed about paying more money to the state. Every dollar you give the state subtracts from the private sector economy growth rate. The ultimate result will be a slower economic growth rate. The criminal justice system and prisons are already consuming billions of dollars that should be going into creating an expanding economy. Think about it.
JCTA PUBLIC MEETING: The Taxpayers Association will hold an open public forum to discuss the following issues: 1. The sheriff has refused to answer a drug challenge while supporting a political group that suggested many citizens in JoCo were drug users and against honesty and fairness. 2. The sheriff has refused to answer e-mail sent to him by JCTA. 3. The questionable tactic of an in-house investigation involving a hanging death in the JoCo jail. 4. An alleged beating of a prisoner in the JoCo jail by deputies and alleged sexual harassment. 5. Sanitation problems in the jail, including continual sewage overflows. 6. Daniel's order to stop investigative reporters from talking to jail prisoners on Oct. 16th.
Edward Snook Investigative Reporter for the Oregon Observer and Michael Sieradzki, will be guest speakers. Sheriff Dave Daniel will be invited to defend his position. After hearing the speakers a public vote will be taken to determine what action should be pursued on these allegations.
Be sure to attend this open public forum set for Friday, October 22, in the City Council Chamber at 7 P.M.