Blogger Pleads Not Guilty to Harassing TriMet Spokeswoman

Anti-TriMet blogger Lane Jensen today pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of telephonic harassment for repeatedly texting questions to a transit agency spokeswoman.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge told Jensen this morning that he will get his cell phone and laptop back. Transit police seized both items when they arrested Jensen in October for sending 31 text messages to TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt's personal cell phone.

But Jensen's property is still in the possession of a transit police officer who is currently on vacation.

"I have no idea when I'm getting my stuff back," Jensen said.

Jensen, who runs the blog Portland Transit Lane, continues to be banned from attending TriMet board meetings where Altstadt is present.

Jensen used an automated text program to send 31 messages over four hours to Altstadt's personal cellphone Oct. 15. He's been charged with one misdemeanor count for each text. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of six months and a $2,500 fine.

Jensen turned down a plea deal, which would have required him to spend six days in jail and perform 30 hours of community service.

TriMet chief media relations officer Mary Fetsch says, "TriMet does not decline to comment but that it would be inappropriate to comment since this is a personal case and TriMet has no involvement in the legal proceedings."

Altstadt could not be reached for comment. No one from TriMet was present at the hearing.

"TriMet doesn't talk to bloggers," said Al Margulies, a fellow blogger and former bus driver who attended the hearing.

Jensen is set to go to trial on January 7.
The state has five confirmed witnesses, said prosecutor John Kopick, who would not reveal their identities. Margulies said he may testify on Jensen's behalf.

"It comes down to what's more important," said Margulies. "The First Amendment or a local telephonic harassment law?"

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