IMAGE: Adam Krueger
For twisting the intent of a law meant to protect victims of domestic violence, we’re naming the Washington County District Attorney’s Office this week’s Rogue.
Here’s what happened. Yesenia Aguilar Gutierrez was driving home to Hillsboro in a Chevy Aveo on July 16. In the front passenger seat were her 15-year-old brother and 4-year-old niece Alondra. Aguilar, 18, took a turn too fast and struck a stop sign outside Cornelius. The passenger-side airbag deployed and struck Alondra, cutting and bruising the child’s cheek. The youngster, who was wearing a seat belt but was not in a child seat as required by law, was taken to the hospital and released the next day with no serious injuries.
Police found no evidence alcohol was involved. They cited Aguilar with reckless endangering, a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to one year in jail, but the usual result for a first-time offender is probation only. OK so far. But Jason Weiner, a Washington County deputy district attorney, upped the charge to felony assault under a 1997 law that makes it a felony to commit domestic violence in front of a minor. A grand jury agreed, indicting the teenage girl on that charge and five others. Aguilar pleaded not guilty, and her trial is set for Feb. 17. She faces up to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation if convicted of the felony fourth-degree assault.
Weiner’s reasoning behind the charge: The 15-year-old brother witnessed the alleged assault on Alondra. But Secretary of State Kate Brown, who wrote the law 12 years ago when she was a state senator, says it was meant to punish domestic violence and she’s “horrified” it’s being used in this case by Washington County.
Weiner defends his position, saying he applied the law as written.
We think he should listen to Brown and use domestic violence laws to punish wife beaters, not bad drivers.