DA’s Budget Cuts Deserve Reasonable Discussion
Your article of May 26, 2010, “Trial and Error,” was misleading in several respects. First, of the 14,868 misdemeanor cases filed by my office in 2009, only 168 were found not guilty, an acquittal rate of only 1 percent. Second, you included in the category of “dismissed” cases defendants who successfully completed diversion and other specialty courts. Each year, thousands of defendants successfully complete DUII diversion, domestic violence diversion, community court, and other specialty programs that afford the defendant an opportunity to earn a dismissal. Those programs were created as an alternative to criminal prosecution. The possibility to have criminal charges dismissed upon successful completion is an extremely important incentive for most participants. To include cases that were successfully resolved by way of diversion or participation in a specialty court presents a misleading picture of what is actually happening in Multnomah County. Despite diminishing resources, the overwhelming majority of misdemeanor cases resolved successfully.
Regarding the specific cases cited in your article, it is always possible to find a few controversial examples among the several thousands of cases prosecuted each year, especially when only one side of the story is presented, as was done in your article. A person whose child was threatened at school by another student with brass knuckles, who was hit in the head by a metal belt buckle when swung at the end of a belt, or who was assaulted riding their bicycle to work, might take exception to the characterization of these cases, which appear to have been provided solely by the defendants’ attorneys. Mr. Heidtbrink in particular has a long history of attacking cyclists, having been convicted of harassment and disorderly conduct on multiple occasions. He has a particular proclivity for accosting female cyclists. In an Aug. 9, 2006, story, WW’s own Angela Valdez described Heidtbrink as a “two-wheeled menace” who “has been jailed for several short stints on charges ranging from domestic violence to disorderly conduct.”
There should be no misunderstanding that the proposed cuts to my office contained in Chair Cogan’s budget are real and severe. The impact upon public safety and the quality of life in Multnomah County will be substantial. The County Board is faced with an extremely difficult task. The commissioners have no easy choices. Unfortunately, your article did nothing to promote a reasoned discussion of the difficult decisions that must be made.
Michael D. Schrunk
District Attorney, Multnomah County