A masseuse's detailed account last year of her encounter with Al Gore in a downtown hotel suite should have been investigated more thoroughly, Portland police now say.
The woman's account of what she says happened with Gore in the Hotel Lucia on Oct. 24, 2006, was first reported last week by the National Enquirer. The woman alleges in a statement she read to police in January 2009 that Gore tried to sexually assault her when he was in town more than two years earlier to speak about climate change.
The woman's attorney first contacted police in December 2006 and told them his client wanted to report unwanted sexual contact from Gore when she went to his ninth-floor room to give the former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner a massage.
Police briefed the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office then about the allegations, but also noted they had tried unsuccessfully three times to interview the woman. They said her attorney told them in January 2007 she had decided to pursue a civil lawsuit instead of criminal charges. (She never filed suit.)
But, in 2009, she finally decided to provide police with an exhaustive version of what she says happened that night, including her allegations that Gore forced her hand toward his groin and grabbed her. She said she called Gore a "crazed sex poodle" and that he was making "muffled moans" during her massage, pleading for release of his "second chakra," and wanting her to listen to Pink's anti-Bush song "Dear Mr. President."
"Supervisors and command staff should have ensured the additional report was referred to the District Attorney for review," despite the two years-plus that had passed, police spokeswoman Det. Mary Wheat said Monday. "We are reviewing our policies and protocols concerning these types of cases."
Assistant Chief Eric Hendricks, who oversees the bureau's investigations branch, added that police have "made vast improvements in the way it accepts, handles and clears sex assault cases. We hope this case that has gained notoriety due to the suspect involved does not take away all of the good work that has been done in the last two years."
Wheat also said that police in most sex abuse investigations would try to contact the suspect for an interview or statement unless it would compromise the investigation. She said investigators did not try to contact Gore in 2009.
"In this case, we should have had additional discussion on whether an investigation should go forward," Wheat said, adding that police contacted Gore's legal counsel after last week's story ran in the Enquirer.
Wheat said the woman's allegations, if true, would possibly be considered a charge of sex abuse in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail upon conviction. Wheat declined comment about any response in the past week from Gore's attorney or whether the accuser has contacted police about pursuing an investigation. "We will always evaluate whether an investigation should be reopened," Wheat says, "If there is a need to clarify something, new evidence is brought forward or the person involved requests it."
To read the transcript of what Gore's accuser told police on Jan. 8, 2009, and hear a recording of that two-hour-and-15-minute interview, go to wweek.com/Gore_transcript.