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John Wentworth: CCSO Sgt. Micah Hibpshman's alleged victim would not testify at grand jury

In a recent op-ed appearing in Pamplin Media, Clackamas County resident Brian Fitzgerald made a series of disparaging allegations against Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners and me that are untrue. I am writing to correct the record.

Former Clackamas County Sheriff Sgt. Micah Hibpshman was accused of domestic violence. Because my staff has worked closely with Sgt. Hibpshman, I asked the Marion County District Attorney's Office to review the case for prosecution to avoid any actual or perceived bias. The case was declined for prosecution.

John Wentworth

In evaluating a case, a prosecutor must consider whether the case is provable without the victim's cooperation and if not, whether the victim will testify against their abuser. The Constitution requires a victim be physically present and subject to cross examination before their testimony may be allowed in court. In Mr. Hibpshman's case, the victim's attorney informed the assigned prosecutor the alleged victim would not testify at grand jury or participate in prosecution in any way.

Accordingly, the prosecutor determined there was insufficient evidence available to prove the allegations in a court of law and declined the case, just as prosecutors are ethically required to do.

Mr. Fitzgerald accuses DA Clarkson of bias because she is married to a police officer, and alleges that she is a "thin-blue-line proponent." His accusation on this matter proves my point. It's easy to make an allegation, but much more difficult to prove it. Mr. Fitzgerald offers no evidence to back his claim because he can't.

DA Clarkson had never met or even heard of Mr. Hibpshman before receiving this case. That's exactly why I asked her office to review it.

Again, it is unethical and immoral to proceed on or decline a charge out of bias or prejudice. For Mr. Fitzgerald's allegation to be true, DA Clarkson would have to be willing to put her profession, career and reputation on the line for Mr. Hibpshman for no other reason than he shares a profession with her husband. Ridiculous.

What's more, DA Clarkson didn't personally review the case; another veteran prosecutor with decades of experience (and not married to a police officer) did.

Declining Mr. Hibpshman's case was not, as Mr. Fitzgerald implies, a grand conspiracy among elected officials to protect an accused domestic abuser. It was a decision based in fact and law, free of bias and prejudice just as it should be.

John Wentworth is the district attorney of Clackamas County.

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