Oregon Sheriff Indicted For Assaulting, Strangling Inmatesby Asa Jay
Sep. 17, 2015
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An Oregon sheriff has been indicted on nine misdemeanor counts including three counts of harassment, three counts of official misconduct in the first degree, one count of attempted assault in the fourth degree, one count of assault in the fourth degree and one count of strangulation, the Oregon Attorney General's office said Friday.
The Oregon Department of Justice began investigating Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah in April following excessive force allegations. Seven of the department’s 30 deputies were placed on paid leave after being questioned about their boss – and say they feared Skrah retaliating against them for their complicity in the interviews.
Becky Gallagher, a lawyer hired by the deputies’ union to represent them said, “The Klamath County Peace Officers Association went to the county and asked for some protection for its members. They were concerned about retaliation and a hostile workplace.”
Gallagher says at least one deputy has filed an Oregon Employment Relations Board complaint against Skrah.
Skrah remains sheriff but was placed on leave by County commissioners after news of the investigation first leaked in August. He disputes the allegations made by underlings and has made no comment regarding the charges against him except to say he has “done nothing wrong.”
Investigators say the charges resulted from Skrah’s treatment towards three detainees in separate incidents.
According to indictments, Skrah held a flashlight against the throat of James Johnson on Feb. 11, 2013, hit Jason Charles on Jan. 14, 2014, and choked Kenneth Bragg on Feb. 27, 2015. It is also alleged that Skrah failed to notify and compensate a local property owner after one deputy damaged their property.
“All law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Skrah, are sworn to uphold the law in Oregon,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “The grand jury has determined there is a basis to bring charges based on his actions, including the use of excessive force and the failure to perform required duties.”
Skrah, who has declined to comply with requests by officials to take leave during the remainder of the investigation, did not enter a plea during his Friday arraignment but was released from custody on the condition that he not participate in traffic or criminal stops, and not have contact with suspects or inmates.
“I have not been informed of the focus of the DOJ investigation,” Skrah said during a press conference. “I do not know and I have not been informed as to dates, times, locations nor the names of anyone involved.”
Skrah, a former Los Angeles police officer and investigator, was elected Sheriff of Klamath County in 2012. His next court appearance is scheduled for October 19.