State Records Suggest Multnomah County Deputies Let Hoover Gang Members Beat Up Jailhouse Rivals

Hoover-affiliated inmates would enforce discipline for the deputies and, in return, deputies would allow them to exact bloody revenge on their rivals.

Multnomah County Jail signage. (Blake Benard)

Oregon State Police have uncovered evidence that Multnomah County corrections deputies encouraged—and sometimes participated in—a series of more than a dozen assaults of inmates at the county’s downtown jail in 2018 and 2019.

A bombshell 142-page report, authored by OSP Sgt. Nicole Watson and released today by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, found “a pattern of misconduct” involving six current and former deputies.

The central allegation in the report is that jail deputies did favors for members of the Hoover gang—including running drugs, bringing in contraband, and buzzing inmates into cells to beat up their rivals. The claims are backed up by written complaints, contemporaneously recorded jailhouse phone calls, and interviews with current and former jail staff, although the guards’ culpability remains unclear.

The report was submitted to Multnomah County prosecutors, who reviewed the allegations and in November penned a memo declining to press criminal charges against three of the deputies involved.

Despite “serious concerns about the alleged actions of the defendants,” senior deputy district attorney JR Ujifusa said he didn’t believe he could prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

WW first reported a criminal investigation into three deputies in November 2022, and first requested the resulting report last June. On Feb. 12, Oregon State Police turned over the report—and eight days later, as WW prepared a story, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office attempted to get in front of the bad news by publishing Ujifusa’s memos as well as the full report on its website.

What’s inside the report is a picture of a jailhouse unit “basically ran by the Hoovers,” as one former inmate told the state investigator. Inside that unit, both former inmates and deputies agreed, Hoover-affiliated inmates would enforce discipline for the deputies and, in return, deputies would allow those gang members to exact bloody revenge on their rivals.

The investigation began in 2021 with a tip from a “cooperating defendant” in a federal racketeering investigation into the Hoover gang, which federal prosecutors have called “one of the most prolific and violent gangs here in the city of Portland.”

The defendant, unnamed in the report and likely a Hoover gang member angling for more lenient treatment by prosecutors, tipped off the FBI.

In a subsequent interview, the defendant said two deputies, Gustavo Valdovinos and Mirzet Sacirovic, became so close with the Hoovers in the jail that they earned nicknames and honorary membership in the gang. Deputies would open cell doors so Hoovers could beat up their rivals, the defendant said.

Two other unnamed cooperating defendants echoed the accusation that deputies were facilitating fights. “If they were gang members, they were letting us handle it,” said one. “When they had problems with certain inmates that weren’t gang members, they would just go in the cell and beat ’em up by themselves.”

In late 2022, then-Sheriff Mike Reese put three deputies—Valdovinos, Sacirovic and Jorge Troudt—on administrative leave and asked the Oregon State Police to investigate.

Sgt. Nicole Watson was assigned to the case. She traveled as far as Montana to track down deputies who may have been involved, ultimately identifying more than a dozen assaults allegedly facilitated by staff during a yearlong period from December 2018 to December 2019.

Almost all occurred on Unit 5A in the Multnomah County Detention Center, the maximum-security downtown jail.

In two cases, deputies admitted to “popping” cell doors to allow inmates to fight. One deputy, Nathanael Lightner, is still working for the sheriff’s office. He was identified by Watson after another inmate filed a complaint reporting the incident. Lightner called it a one-off “lapse in judgment.”

The other, Les Soloai, now lives in Utah, where Watson tracked him down. He said it was “the culture in those units at that time where if you let them handle their own business, then the units would run smoothly,” pointing specifically to Sacirovic as someone who had gotten “mixed up” with the Hoovers.

“He said the ‘culture’ of MCDC felt like it was derived from old-school jailers who would talk about how it used to be and encourage deputies like Valdovinos and Sacirovic to fix the problem themselves,” Watson wrote.

Soloai said he’d never witnessed Valdovinos or Sacirovic assault an inmate themselves, although he’d heard rumors that other deputies weren’t happy with how the two handled “problem” inmates.

But a female deputy whose name is redacted in the report told Watson that she’d witnessed Sacirovic and an inmate beating up another inmate. The victim was detoxing and had been screaming curse words, and Sacirovic had previously offered to “take care of him,” the deputy said.

“I’ve been like losing sleep over this because I was so bothered by what happened, and I was too scared to say anything and I feel guilty,” she told Watson.

In a recorded jail call, a known “Hoover affiliate” outlined the cozy relationship between inmates and their guards.

“We take care of shit for them, they gonna take care of shit for us in here. You feel me?” the inmate, Jordan Million, said in a taped call on Sept. 8, 2019. The remark followed an inmate assaulting another inmate, allegedly at the request of a guard.

In other cases, guards allegedly returned the favor.

On May 4, 2018, police arrested 19-year-old Jeffrey Jessie in the non-fatal shooting of Jahrell H. Lillard in the parking lot of Clackamas Town Center. (Lillard is the stepbrother of former Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.) Jessie later faced charges in Multnomah County for a separate armed robbery, and was periodically transported to the county jail for hearings.

A confidential defendant said that when Jessie arrived at the downtown jail in December, Sacirovic placed him on their unit, where “he got beat up bad by Hoovers.” Another defendant involved in the assault said Valdovinos had sanctioned it, knowing that Jessie was in a rival gang.

What resulted was a brawl on Unit 5A in which multiple Hoovers, including at least one of the confidential defendants, fought Jessie one-on-one. For his part, Valdovinos recalled it as “a heated verbal altercation.”

Watson reviewed a recorded call from jail made by the victim, Jessie, in which he identified four Hoover members on the unit and said “the police be with those niggas, running weird as fuck.” In other words, Jessie alleged, the deputies and the Hoovers were allied.

Watson also interviewed inmates who witnessed the fights. She tracked down one, Joshua Funk, in the law library of a federal prison.

There, he recalled a homeless man who was detoxing from heroin being beaten up “over and over again” after a deputy whose name started with V popped his cell door. There was so much blood inmates had to clean it up.

Funk was housed in Unit 5A for much of 2019. “Every pod at MCDC at that time was basically ran by the Hoovers,” he told Watson.

The three deputies put on administrative leave—Valdovinos, Sacirovic and Troudt—were all hired about six years ago and have raised concerns among sheriff’s office superiors before. As WW previously reported, Valdovinos and Troudt had both previously been disciplined for assaulting inmates.

Sacirovic denied any misconduct in an interview with Watson. So did Troudt, who told Watson that the unit “was a complete shitshow” when he was there and he was happy to leave. Valdovinos refused to talk to Watson without a lawyer.

Security cameras have since been installed in the unit, according to Ujifusa, the prosecutor, who weighed criminal charges against Troudt, Valdovinos and Sacirovic. He determined Nov. 14 that he couldn’t prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt—in part because they relied on the word of known criminals.

“Another forum, such as an [internal affairs] investigation or [Department of Public Safety Standards & Training] discipline investigation…is the most appropriate venue to address the conduct of these three individuals,” he wrote.

Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, who held on to the report for nearly a year before giving it to WW, says she has “initiated a professional standards investigation” into three of the deputies named in the report, following prosecutors’ decision not to press charges last November.

Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Liedle said in an email message that the report was released now “in the interest of transparency,” despite the fact that WW had previously requested the report, but the sheriff’s office would not turn it over. The sheriff’s office has repeatedly denied WW’s requests for various records, citing that they concerned a pending criminal investigation.

When pressed to explain why the sheriff’s office delayed releasing the OSP report until now, three months after the criminal investigation ended, Liedle stopped responding to WW’s questions.

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