DEFENSE ATTORNEYS have spent the last week fighting in court for more details on the city's secret list of downtown offenders, only to be blocked at every turn by evasive legal arguments, and denials that the list exists by a city commissioner many believe shares responsibility for its use.
The list, which is thought to target Portland's most frequent arrestees, first came to the Mercury's attention in April, when it emerged that 52 percent of those on the then 408-strong list were African American, while African Americans make up only six percent of the local population ["Blacklisted," News, April 24]. In May, the Mercury discovered that despite the city's effort and considerable investment in the program, the criteria for getting on and off the list aren't written down anywhere ["The Policy that Wasn't There," News, May 22]. At the end of last month, defense attorney Lisa Pardini served a subpoena on City Commissioner Randy Leonard—a co-sponsor with Mayor Tom Potter of last October's council resolution to bring additional funding for the program—to appear in court this Tuesday, September 9, to explain the policies behind it ["Leonard's Secret List," News, Aug 21].
Last Tuesday, September 2, Leonard denied knowing about the secret list on the Mercury's blog. "I have never been told of a list," he wrote. "I have never seen a list, I have never been told by the police bureau there is such a list, and I have never emailed an officer or anyone else about a list."
The central precinct cop most associated with the program, Officer Jeff Myers, produced a copy of the list from the front of his uniform during an interview with the Mercury on May 6.
Nevertheless on Monday, September 8, Circuit Court Judge Eric Bloch bowed to arguments by Deputy City Attorney Ellen Osoinach, and quashed Pardini's subpoena of Leonard, on the grounds that while in theory the commissioner may or may not know about the list, he could not provide any information on it that can't be provided by Myers, or by the program's civilian manager at the Portland Police Bureau, Bill Sinnott.
Both Myers and Sinnott have also been served subpoenas by Pardini, and will now have to appear in court to explain it at a rescheduled trial of Pardini's client, Janet Strachan—who is thought to have been charged with a felony for what would normally have been charged as a misdemeanor for residue drug possession, as a result of being on the list—on September 23.
Nevertheless, Pardini was insistent at the hearing that Leonard should be required to appear in court to explain the policies behind Myers' list.
"An officer can't make a policy by himself," she argued. "These policies need to be created and regulated by someone else. And if that's not happening, well then, you have even more of a problem."
Last Friday, September 5, defense attorney Chris O'Connor served a subpoena to Denise Boyland, the parole and probation officer whose salary is paid by the city through the program.
O'Connor's client, Duayne Jones, is thought to be on the list because he appears on a presumed copy of it obtained by the Mercury in May 2008, and because Jones was charged with a felony for possession of cocaine residue—which again, would normally be charged as a misdemeanor—following his arrest on March 17 this year. Afterward, Jones was placed in drug treatment, to be supervised by Boyland, but dropped out on July 8, and as a result was sentenced last Friday without a trial to six months in jail by Judge Cheryl Albrecht.
Facing cross-examination by O'Connor, Boyland denied direct knowledge of the list, saying it's her job simply to get people into drug treatment. O'Connor's questions about the list were objected to on the grounds of relevance by District Attorney David Hannon, whose salary is also being paid by the city through the program.
"There's no issue about a list," Hannon said.
Leonard issued a standing refusal to comment on the Mercury's follow-up inquiries about the program last Tuesday, September 2. Meanwhile, the mayor's office is yet to furnish the results of a public records request for emails related to the program lodged last Wednesday, September 3.
Myers and Sinnott told the Mercury last Friday, through the cops' public information officer, Sergeant Brian Schmautz, that a written copy of the policies for getting on and off the list would finally be made available sometime this week. Back in May, Sinnott set a goal to do this by July 1, although it still has not occurred by press time.