Ex-Clackamas staffer guilty of painting swastika on memorial
A former Clackamas County employee pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Dec. 8, to spray-painting a Nazi swastika on the sidewalk next to a memorial for a Black man who died soon after attempting suicide while incarcerated at the Clackamas County Jail.
Collin Michael Williams, 21, pleaded guilty to a second-degree bias crime, second-degree criminal mischief, abuse of a memorial and third-degree criminal mischief. Circuit Judge Todd L. Van Rysselberghe scheduled Williams' sentencing for Jan. 10, 2022.
Williams, who is white, was arrested in August for reportedly knocking over candles and breaking framed photos at an outdoor memorial for Jermelle Madison, who died after attempting suicide in a Clackamas County Jail cell on June 28. Madison later died from his self-inflicted injuries in a hospital on July 3.
According to Oregon City police, Williams recorded himself in August defacing the memorial on social media, posting: "I also spray-painted a fun German windmill on the sidewalk for good measure. DM for the pic."
The Clackamas resident committed the crime while employed as an engineering technician in the Clackamas County Surveyor's Office and resigned "within days" of his arrest, as the county was in the process of terminating him, according to a county spokesperson.
The Clackamas County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, Dec. 9 declined Pamplin Media Group's request for release of the signed plea agreement, citing an Oregon law exempting disclosure of public records related to open investigations.
Under Oregon law, the four charges to which Williams' pleaded guilty add up to a maximum possible sentence of three years and 30 days and $20,000 in fines.
While the terms of Williams' plea agreement remain unconfirmed by the court, the victim's family has spoken out against them. Lynette Madison, Jermelle's grandmother, said the upcoming sentence — which she heard would be 90 days in jail and 60 months of probation — isn't long enough to match the crime. When she heard about the state's alleged sentencing offer, Lynette claimed it would be indicative of racial bias.
"That's a hate crime. If it had been a Black guy doing that to a white guy's memorial, they would have given him a hell of a lot more time than that," Lynette said.
"And he bragged about it. I mean, he got on Facebook and everything else and bragged about the intent. Bragged about it being a hate crime," she added. "So it isn't like a kid that made a mistake, a young man that made a mistake. He intentionally did this and set out to do it and bragged about it."
"Nothing that happens in the criminal justice system can possibly fix the pain felt by Mr. Madison's family. The conduct of the defendant in this case was offensive and unacceptable, and requires a strong response from the criminal justice system," a spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office said in response to the Madison family's comments. "However, the District Attorney's Office disagrees with any notion that our sentencing recommendation will not be commensurate with the crime the defendant committed, or inconsistent with sentences received by other similarly situated defendants in the state of Oregon."
As previously reported, Oregon City Police Chief Jim Band said detectives immediately began investigating the incident as a bias crime when the vandalized memorial was brought to the attention of police.
"Over the next day and a half, attempts were made to identify a suspect," Band said. "Detectives reached out to local retailers to locate anyone who might have purchased spray paint around the time the vandalism occurred. Local retailers were quick and eager to assist, and an unnamed suspect and his vehicle were quickly identified on the morning of Aug. 12."
The memorial had been set up at the corner of Beavercreek Road and Library Court, adjacent to the Clackamas County Development Services Building on Aug. 6, as part of a vigil for Madison.
Detectives worked with the Clackamas County administration to review video surveillance, which showed Williams' vehicle in the area at the time the crime occurred. OCPD detectives also obtained a subpoena for banking information related to Williams' purchase of the spray paint.
"We do not tolerate hate in this county," said Clackamas County Administrator Gary Schmidt following the incident. "We do not tolerate hate crimes towards anyone."
This story was updated on Dec. 10 to include comments from the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.