Deputy trial gets underway before judge
The trial of three corrections officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, charged in connection with the death of an inmate on April 26, 2017, got underway Nov. 26, in the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Two weeks has been allotted for the combined trial, before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Daina Vitolins. The defendants, Cpl. Anthony "Tony" Hansen, and deputies Cory Skidgel and Michael "Mike" Durkan, who were charged with criminally negligent homicide for the death of James Eugene Wippel, 59, all entered not guilty pleas on April 19, and have been on paid administrative leave since then.
Clackamas County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Wentworth and Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Golden, who are prosecuting the case at the request of the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, got approval to combine the cases in June.
Hansen is represented by Dave Glenn, of Madras, Skidgel by Prineville attorney Jennifer Kimble, and Durkan, Rob Bletko and Dan Thenell, of Portland.
On Monday, detectives from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, who were part of the Major Incident Team investigating Wippel's death, were questioned about the circumstances they found after Wippel's death, as well as the photographic evidence, which showed blood on the floor in two cells.
The judge also heard the recorded interview of Durkan, who said that he first saw fluid on the floor of Wippel's cell between 5 and 5:30 a.m., and initially thought that it was vomit in the darkened cell.
On Tuesday, the court listened to recorded testimony from Hansen and Skidgel.
Wippel, of Portland, had been taken into custody by an officer from the Warm Springs Police Department in the early morning hours of April 24, 2017.
According to the arrest affidavit, an officer with the Warm Springs Police Department was dispatched to the parking lot of Indian Head Casino at 3:42 a.m., to check out a report of two people inside a black car smoking from a glass pipe. The first officer on the scene approached the vehicle, a black Mercedes, and observed a large, glass smoking device with brown residue plainly visible on the center console. Wippel was alone in the vehicle.
When another officer arrived and reviewed video from security cameras, he was able to see Wippel lighting and smoking from the device. A subsequent test showed the residue was likely methamphetamine, and Wippel was arrested for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and transported to the JCCF, in Madras.
At the jail, Wippel told the arresting officer that he had "about a gram" of heroin inside his backpack. When they searched his backpack, corrections staff found a syringe with a dark brown liquid and a baggie with three large black heroin rocks. Staff also located a baggie with small pill pouches and $4,408 in cash and charged Wippel with unlawful possession and delivery of heroin.
Two days later, in the early morning hours of April 26, 2017, Wippel told staff that he wasn't feeling well, and was seen by the jail nurse. Jail officials later called for an ambulance, and at about 8:30 a.m., Wippel was released from the jail's custody, so he could be transported to the hospital by Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services.
Earlier this year, after the arraignment in April, Sheriff Jim Adkins said that corrections staff walked Wippel to the gurney after the ambulance arrived. Ambulance personnel were preparing Wippel for transport when he died.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office determined that unchecked bleeding from a burst ulcer caused Wippel's death.
Criminally negligent homicide is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000.