The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting and RogueValleyMagazine.com
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today– Showers likely after 5pm. Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Wednesday– Showers likely, mainly between 11am and 5pm. Snow level 3100 feet rising to 3700 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 47. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Thanksgiving Day– Patchy fog before 2pm. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 49. Calm wind.
Friday– Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 43.
Saturday– Areas of fog before 11am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 45.
Sunday– Areas of fog. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 46.
COVID-19 has claimed six more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 826, the Oregon Health Authority reported this morning. Oregon Health Authority reported 1,174 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 66,333.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (10), Clackamas (116), Clatsop (2), Columbia (18), Coos (7), Crook (8), Curry (1), Deschutes (44), Douglas (18), Grant (1), Harney (1), Hood River (6), Jackson (80), Jefferson (8), Josephine (17), Klamath (25) Lake (3), Lane (71), Lincoln (3), Linn (15), Malheur (10), Marion (120), Morrow (7), Multnomah (254), Polk (25), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (56), Union (26), Wasco (7), Washington (225), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (17).
JCHD was notified today of 42 new cases of COVID-19. 414 active cases. 2,500 cases to date, inc. 32 related deaths. 2,054 individuals released from isolation, inc. 38 today. Local risk level remains elevated! Please continue to take all precautions available.
Just ahead of Thanksgiving, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she believes residents who know their neighbors are violating the most recent round of COVID-19 protocols, which includes capping the number of people allowed in your home at six, should call the police. That’s right, your neighbors may be snitches.
“This is no different than what happens if there’s a party down the street and it’s keeping everyone awake,” Brown said in an interview Friday.
The restrictions, known as a freeze, were implemented this week via an executive order by the governor. For the next two weeks in Oregon, and four weeks in Multnomah County, residents are banned from eating out at restaurants and going to the gym, among other restrictions. Social gatherings in our homes are also limited to no more than six people. Violators could face up to 30 days in jail, $1,250 in fines or both.
Critics of the freeze have called it unconstitutional. Clackamas County Chair-elect Tootie Smith said on FOX News the freeze made Oregonians “second-rate slaves” in their own homes. On Friday, the Marion County Sheriff’s office said in a statement, “We recognize that we cannot arrest or enforce our way out of the pandemic, and we believe both are counterproductive to public health goals.”
Oregon State University is testing out a new tool that could alert Oregonians about possible exposure to COVID-19.
Nearly five-thousand faculty, staff and students have downloaded Oregon Exposure Notifications for their smartphone. The app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously tell other users when someone who was near them tests positive for COVID-19, giving them information about how to get tested themselves.
The system does not collect any personal information, and doesn’t track a user’s location.
Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls closed its primary care clinic yesterday due to covid spread. In a Facebook post, the hospital said that “the Clinic is closed for additional cleaning and to follow through with testing in response to a sudden increase in positive cases among staff there.
The Drop-in Clinic for existing Sky Lakes Primary Care Clinic patients and Cascades East Family Medicine Clinic remain open. The situation is fluid, so listen and watch for updates. The clinic will call patients who have scheduled appointments.
The Ashland Police Department says that a man is dead after a shooting in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn early Monday morning.
Police and firefighters responded to reports of the shooting just before 4:30 a.m., finding a man lying with a single gunshot wound to the chest. Ashland Fire & Rescue tried to stabilize the man, but he was “beyond help,” APD said. The suspected shooter was still at the scene, and APD immediately detained him for interview.
The suspect, identified as 47-year-old Robert Paul Keegan of Talent, was later taken into custody. Forensics teams were on the scene near the intersection of Siskiyou Boulevard and Sherman Street on Monday morning, but had cleared the area by 10 a.m. While police have identified the victim, APD said that the agency will not release his identity out of respect for family and friends, who have just been notified.
Around the State of Oregon
Oregon said Monday it has finally begun paying $176 million in federal benefits the state has withheld from laid-off workers for eight months.
The so called “waiting week” benefits should go out to 246,000 Oregonians within the next three days, showing up on debit cards, direct deposit accounts or in checks. They’ll see an average of $715 apiece, though the size of the payments will vary considerably. Another 170,000 people will have to keep waiting for their payments, possibly until late January. It’s not clear how much money is coming their way.
The Oregon Employment Department says workers don’t need to do anything additional to receive their money. The payments will be equal to one week of benefits. The waiting week saga has been among the most painful in a succession of failings at the Oregon Employment Department this year.
On Sunday, November 22, 2020 at approximately 5:50 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near milepost 256 (Market Street Interchange).
Preliminary investigation revealed a pedestrian was attempting to cross the freeway when he was struck by a Dodge Ram pickup, operated by Ana Gutierrez (39) of Salem, and a Toyota 4-Runner, operated by Josh Jolley (33) of Salem.
The pedestrian, whom will be identified when appropriate, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.
Gutierrez and Jolley are cooperating with the investigation.
Two lanes of I-5 southbound were closed for approximately 3.5 hours.
Police say one person was arrested during dueling demonstrations outside the Justice Center. The Portland Police Bureau says two groups of about two-dozen people each gathered at the building over the weekend. One of the groups was calling itself pro-police, with members carrying “Trump 2020” flags. The other group called themselves antifascists and counterprotesters. It’s not yet clear what led to the arrest or which group the person arrested was in.
Several positions and programs at Western Oregon University will be reduced and eliminated next year in an attempt to curb a growing concern for the institution’s financial stability. The Statesman Journal reports the university’s board of trustees on Nov. 18 approved an adjusted 2021 budget, which required an update on fall 2020 enrollment numbers. The previous budget, initially adopted at the board’s June meeting, was based on a projected enrollment decrease of 2.5%, officials said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and “many other factors,” officials reported enrollment was actually down about 7.9%.
EUGENE, Ore.—Culver, Oregon resident Thomas R. Campbell, 29, was sentenced in federal court today for the flagrant and repeated poaching of protected and Tribally significant bull trout, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.
“One of the most solemn duties of the U.S. Attorney’s office is enforcing the laws for the protection of our threatened wildlife and upholding our special trust relationship with our tribal partners,” said United States Attorney Billy J. Williams. “This case demonstrates our priorities in exercising those duties and holding accountable those who would flagrantly disregard our nation’s laws that protect threatened species.”
“Bull trout are an iconic species of the Pacific Northwest whose populations are suffering from habitat degradation, and are protected by Tribal, State and Federal laws,” said James Ashburner, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The defendants in this case caused great harm to the recovery efforts of all of the government and non-government groups who have invested in the recovery of this species. This joint case demonstrates the resolve of Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Oregon State Police, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving bull trout for future generations.
A special thank you goes out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon for placing an emphasis on environmental crimes that impact the natural world we all enjoy.”
According to court documents, on multiple occasions in 2017 and 2018, Thomas R. Campbell poached bull trout from the Metolius River, fishing from both U.S. Forest Service lands and while trespassing on the “Eyerly Property,” which was held in trust by the United States for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Campbell also encouraged others to do the same.
The Metolius River requires catch-and-release for all species of fish, including bull trout. Although one can legally angle for bull trout on the Metolius River and in Lake Billy Chinook, bull trout are not legal to target elsewhere in Oregon. This makes the Metolius River one of the Oregon’s crown gems of angling.
Campbell targeted, kept, and grossly mishandled bull trout despite admittedly knowing the laws protecting the species and how to properly handle fish to immediately release unharmed. He also committed these crimes despite numerous warnings from public viewers of his social media boasts about his poaching. Campbell repeatedly posted photos of his bull trout poaching exploits to his social media platforms where he had more than 1,000 followers.
Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The species has been depleted by a range of factors, including overfishing. Today, bull trout inhabit less than half of their historic range. Central Oregon’s Metolius River helps serve as a prized spawning ground, and it is used to help repopulate other waters where bull trout numbers have dwindled even lower. These magnificent fish are revered by anglers and are a cherished Tribal resource. Poaching represents a lethal threat to their recovery.
On August 13, 2020, Campbell pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges contained in the criminal information. These counts charge violations of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(1) for knowingly acquiring and transporting bull trout from the Metolius River in the Deschutes National Forest and from Warm Springs’ Tribal land.
Robert “Bobby” Brunoe, the General Manager of Natural Resources and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs addressed the sentencing judge on behalf of the Tribes. He discussed the Tribes’ sovereignty over the Warm Springs Reservation, the severity of the trespasses by non-members like Campbell, and the cultural importance of bull trout to the Tribes. Mr. Brunoe also discussed his own connection to these fish, recalling his grandmother’s subsistence fishing for bull trout when he was a child. He stressed the importance of protecting and restoring bull trout.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Campbell to five years of federal probation and banned him from angling or hunting anywhere in the United States as a condition of probation. In addition, Judge Aiken ordered Campbell to pay a $6,000 criminal fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund and $649.95 in restitution to the Oregon State Police for his destruction of a trail camera designed to catch poachers. Campbell was also ordered to perform 300 hours of community service with a non-profit focused on conservation or with a collaborative relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
This case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, Office of Law Enforcement; Oregon State Police, Fish and Wildlife Division; Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Branch of Natural Resources; and the United States Forest Service, Law Enforcement and Investigations. It was prosecuted by Will McLaren and Pam Paaso, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.
PORTLAND, Ore.—A Sherwood, Oregon man pleaded guilty today for smuggling drugs into the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.
Richard Steven Alberts II, 32, pleaded guilty to the charge of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(C), and 846. He will be sentenced on February 22, 2021 by the Honorable Michael H. Simon.
According to court records, in 2019, Alberts was a Correctional Officer at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a women’s prison in Wilsonville, operated by the Oregon Department of Corrections. While employed there, defendant began an inappropriate and illegal sexual relationship with an inmate.
To foster the relationship, Alberts agreed to smuggle drugs, including OxyContin pills, methamphetamine, and heroin into the prison and to provide them to the inmate. In addition, Alberts smuggled multiple cell phones into the facility that the inmate used to communicate with Alberts and others outside the prison. Defendant knew that the smuggled methamphetamine and heroin were not for the inmate’s personal use, but, instead, were intended for distribution to other women incarcerated at Coffee Creek.
On the evening of June 3, 2019, defendant met co-defendant Joseph Jimenez in a parking lot in Portland, where Jimenez provided Alberts with heroin. The next day, on June 4, 2019, Alberts smuggled that heroin into Coffee Creek, and later provided it to the inmate. Just a few days later, an Oregon Department of Corrections investigator seized a small amount of methamphetamine and over 6 grams heroin from the inmate. An investigation by the ODOC and FBI revealed that the seized heroin was, in fact, the same heroin that Alberts had obtained from Jimenez and smuggled into Coffee Creek. Alberts was immediately placed on administrative leave from ODOC.
“This corrections officer selfishly abused his position of trust and in doing so, endangered the lives of vulnerable inmates fighting for their own sobriety” said United States Attorney Billy J. Williams. “Instead of protecting the inmates, he exploited them. The excellent investigative work of the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon State Police, and the FBI now ensures that a man who once guarded inmates will become one himself.”
DOC Director Colette S. Peters said, “The Oregon Department of Corrections is committed to preventing sexual activity involving employees and the people in our care and custody; and take decisive action when allegations are brought forward. When DOC’s Inspector General’s Office and the leadership at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility received a tip about Alberts’s criminal behavior, the agency immediately acted by launching an internal investigation and contacting state and federal law enforcement. Our goal was to ensure a thorough investigation, a fair process, and prosecution, if warranted. We have thousands of employees who provide outstanding public service each and every day. I would like to thank our partners at the US Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Oregon State Police, and the Washington County District Attorney’s office for their cooperation and seeing Alberts sentenced for his illegal and dishonorable behavior.”
“Alberts abused his position of power over the Coffee Creek inmates with the trafficking of meth and heroin,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Instead of ensuring a safe environment for these women as he should have been, he exploited addiction and targeted a vulnerable population for his own gain. We can’t let such behavior stand.”
Alberts faces a maximum sentence of is 20 years of imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a fine of $1,000,000. As part of the plea agreement, defendant agreed to immediately resign from the Oregon Department of Corrections, where he is currently on unpaid administrative leave. Defendant also agreed to immediately and permanently decertify as a law enforcement officer with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. So long as defendant demonstrates an acceptance of responsibility, the parties will jointly recommend a sentence of 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.
In addition, Alberts has agreed with the Washington County District Attorney’s Office to waive indictment and plead guilty to the offense of Custodial Sexual Misconduct in the First Degree under ORS 163.452 (a Class C felony). At sentencing, both parties will recommend that Alberts receives a sentence of three years of formal probation, including conditions that Alberts will participate in an evaluation, and if indicated, participate in sex treatment.
The Oregon Department of Corrections, Oregon State Police and the FBI investigated this case. It is being prosecuted by Craig Gabriel and Scott Bradford, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to enforcing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). PREA requires the development and promulgation of “national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape.” These standards, like the law mandating them, are intended to address a serious public safety, public health, and human rights problem—the incidence of sexual violence in our nation’s confinement facilities. To learn more about PREA, please visit: https://bja.ojp.gov/program/prison-rape-elimination-act-prea/overview.