8/25/2023 News Roundup


<<In early 2021, Sammich Schott-Deputy was living in a Safe Rest Village not far from the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, wearing a GPS ankle bracelet as part of court-ordered probation.

Inside the same courthouse that kept records about Schott-Deputy’s whereabouts and their upcoming court hearings, attorneys for far-right blogger Andy Ngo argued Schott-Deputy couldn’t be reached to be served in-person with legal papers. Instead, as reported by the Oregonian, a judge granted permission for “alternative service,” by publishing legal notices in the Oregonian as a means of notifying Schott-Deputy and another defendant of a lawsuit Ngo brought against them.

Through his legal team, Ngo told the court that a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy tried to serve legal papers to Schott-Deputy at an address in Azalea in 2020, to no avail. That’s because Schott-Deputy says they hadn’t used that address since 2015. In fact, for most of their adult life, they’ve been homeless.

In court filings, Ngo said he “hired two different investigative firms to assist in locating Defendants,” but investigators couldn’t come up with anything other than old addresses.

Schott-Deputy is one of three people named in Ngo’s lawsuit who didn’t appear in court earlier this month, or respond to a legal summons.

Despite Ngo losing against two other defendants in his case at trial, a Multnomah County judge awarded Ngo $300,000 in damages earlier this week. By order of default, those who didn’t attend the trial—including Schott-Deputy—were ordered to each pay Ngo $100,000.

That ruling, which is now being challenged in court, raises questions about Oregon’s laws for legal notices, and the ethics of saddling someone who may not have known they were a party to a lawsuit, with six figures of debt.

An attorney is now asking the court to overturn the default judgment against Schott-Deputy, “as a matter of law and fundamental fairness,” noting normal legal processes were either skirted or not followed in good faith.

“I was never legally served,” Schott-Deputy told the Mercury.

Schott-Deputy, whose legal name at the time was Joseph Christian Evans, was one of a handful of people Ngo sued for allegedly assaulting him at different times from 2019 to 2021, primarily during antifascist protests in Portland.

Ngo, an editor-at-large for the far-right blog The Post Millennial, has made a career out of filming protests–often posting raw footage out of context–and promoting stories that largely seek to discredit Portland’s antifascist or “Antifa” movement.

In 2019, Ngo claims he was punched during a May 1 “May Day” protest that led to a brawl between Rose City Antifa and Patriot Prayer. A few months later, at a different event, Ngo was hit with a milkshake during a demonstration in downtown Portland. That same year, he had water poured on him and a cellphone smacked out of his hand at a Portland gym by a man who confronted him about perceived dishonest, harmful reporting by Ngo. In 2021, Ngo was assaulted by a small group, after covertly filming a group of activists who had gathered earlier that day to commemorate the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.

In a civil lawsuit, Ngo sought damages against six people, including Schott-Deputy, that he alleged were part of, or aided in, the various assaults on him. The only evidence against Schott-Deputy was a still shot from 2019 video footage in Portland that showed Schott-Deputy in the background.

“I didn’t know who Andy Ngo was at the time,” Schott-Deputy said of that day in 2019, when Ngo had a milkshake thrown at him. Schott-Deputy was arrested that day for intervening in a fight, but said the charges were unrelated, and they had no part in throwing anything at Ngo. At the time, Ngo was relatively unknown.

Schott-Deputy, 39, said the first inkling of Ngo’s lawsuit came in 2020, while they were in jail and recalled hearing something about a lawsuit they’d been named in, but hadn’t seen any legal forms or correspondence.

“The court appointed legal counsel in my criminal case told me there was nothing he could do for me [in the other case] because it was a civil matter,” Schott-Deputy recalled. “I just assumed that because I was deeply embedded in the legal system then, they could find me, assuredly. Come to find out, that’s not the case.”

Years went by and Schott-Deputy heard nothing of the case, assuming it had been dismissed, until a few weeks ago.

“I had gone so long not hearing anything else about it,” they said. “It wasn’t again until August 4, I was up in the morning drinking coffee, scanning the news, and for the first time in years, I see a thing about the Andy Ngo trial kicking off.”

Schott-Deputy says they went down to the courthouse to try to speak to the judge and straighten things out, but was denied entry into the courtroom by a bailiff. Earlier in the trial, Judge Chanpone Sinlapasai closed the hearings to the public, citing security concerns and disruptions.

“I walked in, explained to the bailiff that I’m a defendant in this case, and they said, ‘No, you’ve gotta go.’”

The judge asserted the trial was too far along to change course and allow Schott-Deputy to participate, and instructed the bailiff to keep Schott-Deputy out.

Dorothy Yamamoto, an attorney for Ngo, said Oregon’s laws don’t require a plaintiff to continue attempts to track down someone they’re seeking to sue, even if they can’t be sure whether someone saw or received the notice.

“The Oregon laws about service are pretty straight forward. We abided by them and the court agreed we did our due diligence,” Yamamoto said.

“Service by [newspaper] publication was given the court’s approval.

Neither the courts nor the law require additional attempts to be made to contact a defendant after the initial attempt for service.”

Despite claims from Ngo’s lawyers that they couldn’t track down Schott-Deputy to provide proper legal notification of the lawsuit and trial, Schott-Deputy’s attorney noted they should’ve been acutely aware of how to access court records, which often provide current addresses or contact information.

Oregon’s guidance for serving legal papers notes a plaintiff must prove to the court that they’ve exhausted other efforts to contact the involved party, including “searching court records and the internet” before being allowed to use an alternative service method, such as newspaper ads.

In July, shortly after a judge granted defaults against the no-show defendants, Ngo was quick to post a comprehensive summary of Schott-Deputy’s legal affairs online, including a filing for a name and gender change in late 2022 after getting married, nearly eight months before the trial started. Ngo alleged the changes were an effort to evade the pending litigation, but Schott-Deputy’s attorney, Clifford Davidson, says his client was never informed of the lawsuit and was incarcerated when the legal notices were published in a local newspaper.

In a trial that wrapped up August 8, two defendants in Ngo’s lawsuit were found not liable by a jury. Another defendant was dismissed from the case before trial, and three others were found in default for not responding to court summons weeks before the trial kicked off.

Late last week, Schott-Deputy learned they were one of the three found in default and ordered to pay $100,000 to Ngo.

“I’ve spent most of my adult life as a transient,” Schott-Deputy told the Mercury. “I’ve tried to turn my life around over the last few years.

I’m clean, I’m sober, I have a full time job. I’m gainfully employed, happily married. I’m trying to find new value in this existence.”

Schott-Deputy says the judge’s decision feels unjust, and the hefty legal fees threaten that newfound security and stability.

“I’m frustrated. I’m angry, I’m upset, but moreover, I’m greatly disappointed,” they said. “I’m finally feeling like I’m earning a place in this life. I’m heartbroken and crushed.”

In court filings this week, Davidson, the attorney for Schott-Deputy, motioned the court to reverse the default judgment, noting critical legal steps were missed. Davidson said Ngo’s legal team didn’t file a request for the default judgment and failed to file timely or appropriate paperwork that would allow a judge to rule against the remaining defendants with a specific dollar amount.

“This failure is more than just a technicality,” Davidson wrote. “Other than a cryptic docket entry created two business days prior to the date of the prove-up hearing, no entries on the docket provided reasonable notice, in plain English, that Plaintiff intended to pursue a default judgment after losing at trial.”

The court has yet to respond to Davidson’s request for a follow-up hearing.>>



<<Without intervention, Multnomah County could abruptly lose about a fifth of its jail capacity due to a looming $3.4 million budget shortfall this year, according to a spokesman for the county sheriff’s office.

That funding threatens about 219 of the county’s jail beds, including positions of 17 corrections deputies and other staff necessary to supervise and support those beds.

“If funding remains unchanged, we would see a one-fifth reduction in jail beds, from 1,130 (current capacity) to 911,” Deputy John Plock wrote in an email. A reduction of that size, he added, would put Multnomah County’s corrections system in an immediate population emergency.

Plock attributed the shortfall to “funding decisions by state lawmakers” related to Senate Bill 1145, passed back in 1995, which saddled counties with housing certain inmates who previously would have been in Oregon Department of Corrections custody.

While the bill was accompanied by state funding for each biennium, Multnomah County says that they’ve been chronically underfunded in terms of real costs. The county has approved increases to the sheriff’s office budget, but state contributions have knowingly failed to keep pace.

In a Tuesday board briefing, Multnomah County staffers explained the reason for the drop-off in state funding. While SB 1145 guaranteed a set amount of funding each year pegged to inflation, it did not account for county-level wage increases for staff and other costs that have gone up over the years.

Lawmakers have also failed to account for the changing landscape of addiction and mental health issues among the jail population, staffers testified, which require greater attention and care — particularly if the corrections system intends to be an effective participant in recovery and reducing recidivism, something that the state has added requirements around.

The county’s current plan calls for emergency releases when jails reach 95% of capacity — essentially, inmates being held on less serious charges will need to be let out in order to make room for new bookings once a jail has reached that capacity.

As of Sunday at 10 p.m., Plock said, Multnomah County had 948 adults in custody. With a one-fifth reduction, the jails would have been over-capacity at 105% of total beds, requiring a number of releases.

County commissioners are expected to approve one-time contingency funds to make up for the budget shortfall this year. But if the state does not address the budget shortfall by the end of this fiscal year — June 30, 2024 — Plock said that Multnomah County will be in the same position again next year.

The board has indicated that they’ll approve $3 million in contingency funds, but MCSO has asked that they approve an additional $418,000 to add two corrections counselors and a records technician.

Just last week, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office reversed a COVID-era policy that placed limits on booking criteria, meaning some suspects were not being booked into jail who previously would have been in an effort to reduce the number of people in custody. Now, anyone arrested in Multnomah County for a felony or misdemeanor offense can be booked into jail.>>



<<Amid a budget crunch, TriMet is making major public safety expenditures—as well as tactical changes in how it polices its trains, buses and platforms.

The agency has signed a new five-year contract, worth up to $108 million, with a private security company. It has also beefed up prosecutions and begun new overnight “code enforcement missions” at certain stations near homeless shelters, WW has learned.

The changes follow a series of shocking, high-profile crimes on TriMet that have undermined the agency’s efforts to lure back riders after the pandemic. In January, a 25-year-old man suffering from schizophrenia chewed off a man’s ear on a Gresham MAX platform. Last month, a woman walking past the Providence Park MAX platform was knocked unconscious when a man threw a metal water bottle that hit her in the head.

Meanwhile, facing a budget crunch, the agency plans to hike fares 12% beginning next year.

TriMet ridership is down almost 40% from prior to the pandemic. To get them to return, agency officials need to convince riders that public transit is safe.>>

<<TriMet has traditionally borrowed cops from neighboring law enforcement agencies to police its network. But right now, there’s none to spare. The transit agency has the budget for 65 cops, but has filled less than a third of those positions.>>

<<The agency’s board voted last month to pay for an additional prosecutor from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office to focus on TriMet crimes, as well as a pair of investigators.

And, it’s expanding a pilot program begun in 2021 that hires unarmed security guards to discourage criminal activity and connect riders in crisis to social services. The team began with eight members and, with the new influx of funding, can now grow to almost 250.

Strategies are shifting too. The agency began three-night-a-week missions by fare inspectors and TriMet police officers targeting certain MAX stations from midnight to 4 am, TriMet spokeswoman Tia York confirms to WW. They check fares and enforce the agency’s code of conduct, she says.

The locations were chosen “to be near service providers,” but the missions don’t target unhoused riders, York adds. “This is in response to challenges we’ve had with people who are misusing our transit system and refusing to get off vehicles at the end of the lines and, at times, have harassed and/or threatened our operators, cleaning staff and contract security personnel or damaged our equipment.”>>



<<Earlier this week, Gov. Tina Kotek convened the first meeting for a task force of 40 people focused on the problems facing Portland’s economic core. They’re tasked with finding solutions for those problems and providing a plan of action by the end of this year.

Reporters are excluded from these meetings so that members of the task force can talk freely, and it’s not entirely clear what came up during this first session. However, Gov. Kotek’s office was kind enough to provide the PowerPoint slides highlighted during the meeting, which lay out data on some of Portland’s biggest problems. Most of the information comes from Michael Wilkerson at the consulting firm ECONorthwest.

First, it’s worth noting that the scope of the task force’s mission is limited to Portland’s central city, which is a larger area than just downtown or the central business district. It stretches from Lower Albina in the north all the way down to the South Waterfront, including Goose Hollow and extending east to include all of the Lloyd District and the Central Eastside.

The research starts with an overview of Multnomah County’s declining population. Population growth in the Portland area started to slide even prior to the pandemic, hitting its high water mark in 2016. By 2021 it had moved into the negative, falling even further in 2022 as more people moved out of the area.

While it’s reasonable to point out that other metropolitan areas took a similar hit during the pandemic, that isn’t the full story. The greater Seattle area also hit its population high water mark in 2016 before beginning to slide, going negative in 2021 as more people left than moved in. But last year, Seattle started to bounce back. Portland hasn’t rallied in the same way.

Salt Lake City had a similar drop in migration to the city, but other cities of comparable size to Portland did not, including Austin, Indianapolis and Nashville.

When looking purely at population loss from 2020 to 2021, Portland tied for fifth place with St. Paul, Minn. In fact, Detroit, Mich. narrowly beat Portland.

Then there’s the loss in income. From 2012 through 2020, people moving into Multnomah County from other states brought millions worth of income with them. In 2020 alone, that amount was $230 million in new income.

But in 2021, that trend reversed. At that point, it was nothing but money leaving the county.

Between 2015 and 2017, the income levels of people coming to Multnomah County and those leaving were about the same. But that started to shift in 2018, as high earners leaving the area were replaced by lower earners moving in. According to ECONorthwest’s data, the people leaving in 2021 were making an average of over $85,000 a year. The migration out of Multnomah County resulted in a loss of more than $1 billion.

At the same time, data from Earnst and Young shows Portland with the second highest income tax in the nation for people or couples making over $150,000. While New York City technically has the highest income tax, their top rates don’t kick in until people start making $25 million a year.

The task force presentation spends a lot of time on the central city’s slump in foot traffic, in-person work and hotel stays — particularly in downtown — and the fact that there’s just not enough housing in the area compared to the amount of jobs ostensibly based there.

Kotek and task force co-chair Dan McMillan, CEO of Portland-based insurance company The Standard, have both pointed to the central city’s glut of office space compared to available housing as one big issue impacting recovery.

“The types of challenges facing Portland are similar in other large cities,” Kotek said during a Tuesday press conference, “particularly cities like ours, which has been very focused on a downtown core that’s very office-centric. The pandemic has changed that norm, and so we’re trying to figure out what does that mean for us going forward?”

But the level of unsheltered homelessness sets Portland apart from some other cities, Kotek acknowledged. According to one slide from the presentation, Multnomah County’s homeless population is more than four times greater than the U.S. average. The county holds about 2.6% of the nation’s unsheltered and chronically homeless people, but only 0.2% of its residents.

Then there’s another big issue facing a central city comeback: crime.

According to task force data on seven areas of the city, offenses are down slightly this year from 2022 in every area but downtown. However, total offenses across all of those neighborhoods are down significantly from last year, if still higher than in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

Meanwhile, monthly overdose calls have more than doubled in the central city since last January, from 278 to 616, and are particularly high in the Central Eastside, Old Town, downtown and the Lloyd District.

With all that in mind, the task force has been split into five different committees: Central City Value Proposition, Livable Neighborhoods, Community Safety, Housing and Homelessness, and Taxes for Services. Each one has been given a mission that they’re supposed to work toward, with meetings monthly until they deliver a full action plan in December.>>



<<The state of Washington is one week into the full implementation of its new drug possession law that allows police to immediately arrest people in possession of illicit drugs.

This is a stark change from the law that had been in place since May 2021, which required two documented warnings and a referral to treatment prior to an arrest.

Troy Brightbill, the chief criminal deputy of Cowlitz County, said the previous law “led to situations where people were just openly using drugs in public with no fear of any consequences.”

“There wasn’t a good way of sharing whether those subjects had received warnings, say in another jurisdiction,” he said. “And the intended effect, I think, of them seeking alternatives was largely unused.”

The change comes after Gov. Jay Inslee called a special legislative session in May to fix the law after the Washington Supreme Court struck it down, and a temporary law was set to expire.

If the new legislation hadn’t passed, it could have led to the legalization of all drug possession in the state, much like Oregon’s controversial Measure 110.

In compromise, the Washington legislature bridged a gap between Liberals who believe drugs should be decriminalized and Conservatives who insist the threat of jail is necessary to force people into treatment. However, the new law reduces drug possession from a felony to a gross misdemeanor.

“The bipartisan bill prioritizes treatment over punishment, it encourages law enforcement and prosecutors to divert individuals away from the criminal justice system,” Inslee said.>.

<<“We are going to be actively enforcing this law,” Brightbill said. “There might have been people who got a break before under the previous system. Those breaks are not going to be there now.”>>



<<Attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the company that manages the Moda Center and a security staffing company after alleging racial discrimination against a Portland man.

Lawyers representing Byron Brown, who has been independently selling tickets outside the Moda Center for over three decades, state that in February, while he was outside the arena, a security guard instructed him to move.

Attorneys representing Brown say he was surprised by the request and questioned it, which led to an argument with the security guard. Brown asked for a supervisor, and according to him and his attorneys, the security guard made a racially offensive statement during the encounter.

“He abruptly gets off the radio and says ‘You don’t deserve to be here, get back to the cotton field,’” Brown recounts. “And I said, ‘What?’ And he says ‘Get back to the cotton field.’ So, it was very traumatizing, I would use the word traumatizing. I felt disrespected, I felt degraded. It was a whole plethora of emotion that went through at that time.”

Brown says the security guard initially denied making the comment but later admitted to it when a supervisor arrived on the scene.

The lawsuit alleging discrimination and negligence targets Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, the company managing the Moda Center, and Landmark Event Staffing, the security’s employer. Attorneys are seeking $750,000 in damages.>>



<<A long-time correctional officer at Oregon’s troubled women’s prison faces charges of sexual misconduct.

Sgt. Levi David Gray faces two felony counts of custodial sexual misconduct and two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct for acts prosecutors say occurred while he worked at the Coffee Creek Correctional Institution in Wilsonville.

According to the indictment, Gray engaged “in oral sexual intercourse” and also touched the person in custody, who is only identified in court documents by their initials.

Last month, a former nurse at Coffee Creek was convicted of sexual abuse. A recent legislative report also found the prison is systemically failing women in custody.

A Washington County grand jury indicted Gray, 47, earlier this month, according to court records. Grand jurors heard testimony from the person who says they were abused, a state trooper, another corrections officer and another adult in custody, records show. Sexual relationships between staff and correctional officers in prisons and jails are prohibited because of the power dynamic.

Oregon State Police arrested Gray on Tuesday. He was released Wednesday from the Washington County Jail after posting bail. According to state law enforcement records, Gray has been on leave since May 24. In court records, prosecutors say the sexual misconduct occurred on or around May 23.

The Department of Corrections hired Gray in 2010, state law enforcement records show. He began working at Coffee Creek in 2012 as a correctional officer. He was promoted in 2012 to corporal and again in 2013 to sergeant, records show.>>



<<Multnomah County says it housed 1,318 people experiencing homelessness in the past year with dollars generated by the supportive housing services tax that’s been under scrutiny for its slow rollout and unclear outcomes.>>

<<That figure—1,318 people housed in the past year—is clouded by an audit released just yesterday by Multnomah County Auditor Jennifer McGuirk, which calls into question the reliability of data from the Joint Office of Homeless Services, through which the SHS dollars flow.

The auditor wrote in the report that the Joint Office gave her the run-around on basic data, like how many people it had housed. McGuirk will release a second audit examining the reliability and validity of that office’s data in the coming months.

The county reported last year that it housed 1,129 people in the first fiscal year of the tax.>>

<<Last year, the Joint Office used only about 70% of its available homeless tax dollars. That percentage drops when you take into account the higher-than-expected tax returns, which bumps the money used down to 30% of what was available.

Fast forward to this year, and in July the county was on track to underspend its 2023 allocation by $69 million—over half of its overall budget this year. Because of the chronic underspending, Metro recently put the county on a corrective plan, which the county resisted for a time.>>


<<It’s been two years since Portland opened its first Safe Rest Village, a concept built around low-barrier tiny homes for homeless people. After a series of lengthy delays, there are now a total of seven villages, reaching to nearly every corner of the city.

Newly released data from the city’s Safe Rest Village team shows they are having some success.>.

<<From July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, 345 people stayed in a Safe Rest Village. Of that number, 143 people moved on. 70 went into temporary or permanent housing, and 30 went back into homeless situations, including other shelters. Ten went to jail, treatment or other institutions. There is no data for 33 people — they either didn’t complete an exit interview, or they died.>>

<<The Safe Rest Village data shows that a typical stay is about 100 days. Staffers told KGW that they try to move people into some other form of housing within six to nine months.

Another Safe Rest Village opened this summer in Northeast Portland, this one specifically for people who live in their vehicles. It is not yet full and follows similar rules as the other sites. KGW plans to check back in on it next week.>>



<<Police said 11 people have been arrested after a retail theft sting operation Wednesday in Hillsboro.

It’s an issue around the Portland metro that only seems to be getting worse.

Now, police in part of the region are stepping up to crack down on retail theft.

FOX 12 crews got to ride along with Hillsboro police officers as they conducted the shoplifting blitz.

Other than the brief moments police needed to make their presence known, people shopping didn’t realize they were in the middle of a sting operation.

Within minutes of setting up a shoplifting blitz Wednesday afternoon, the Hillsboro Police Department (HPD) made their first arrest at Fred Meyer on Southeast Tualatin Valley Highway in Hillsboro.

FOX 12 crews got an inside look into how the team carries out this type of mission.

The officer in charge, Sergeant David Bonn, kicked things off by briefing the team on the game plan.

“Goal is to apprehend shoplifters with focus on ORC,” Sgt. Bonn said. In partnership with Fred Meyer’s Loss Prevention (LP) team, the HPD team was embedded throughout the area and real-time updates were provided over the radio.

During the 6-hour operation, officers made 11 arrests, including eight adults and three minors.

The team made contact with the suspected shoplifters as soon as they exited the store, put them in the back of a patrol car, then set up for the next one.

Charges include theft, criminal trespass, and possession of a restricted weapon.

Officer Jim Ruiz said these missions are about building relationships with local businesses and residents and holding criminals accountable.

“We definitely want to show the community we definitely hear them loud and clear about their concerns,” Ofc. Ruiz said.>>