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Supporters vow to keep up the fight as effort dies in committee; Bonham blames Democrats

PHOTO COURTESY OF TINA JORGENSEN - Ezra Thomas was 2 when his mother's boyfriend attacked him, leaving him severely handicapped. An effort to establish a law to mandate minimum sentences for acts permanently injuring victims has been dropped by the Oregon Legislature.

Ezra's Law will not become a statute during this legislative session.

"At the end of the day, I did not have enough votes in the committee," says Daniel Bonham, (R) who represents Central Oregon in the Oregon Legislature. "They knew it lacked support. They simply did not put it to the vote."

The goal of Ezra's Law is to secure longer sentences for people who cause permanent physical injury to their victim.

Ezra Thomas was just 2 years old when his mother's boyfriend, Josue Mendoza-Melo, attacked him. Today, Ezra cannot walk, talk or see. He eats and breathes through tubes. Ezra's grandmother Tina Jorgensen, of Madras, launched this campaign when she learned about Mendoza-Melo's sentence.

"I was devastated to hear that," says Jorgensen. "Ten years was not justice for what that man did to Ezra. He gave Ezra a life sentence. And that man deserved a life sentence as well."

When Bonham called to tell her the bill would not move forward, she posted her thoughts on Facebook.

"My posts were a little bit negative today because I want people to be angry with me," says Jorgensen. "I try to find the triumph in this tragedy and try and post the happy things, but today I want people to see what life is like and that it's not a normal life for Ezra."

The Ezra's Law campaign sought 25-year prison terms for an injury that "permanently and significantly impairs" the victim's cognitive function, vision, hearing or ability to walk or breathe, eat or move their limbs.

"I think a lot of people understand the need for Ezra's Law and a lot of people support it," says Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche who champions the cause. "It's upsetting that Salem is dictated by agendas rather than what the average person wants in a commonsense way."

According to Bonham, in a year the governor wants to close three Oregon prisons, the spirit of this legislative session did not bode well for a measure like Ezra's Law.

"The Democrat super-majority had a desire to see some changes done to Measure 11," says Bonham, referring to a 1994 law requiring mandatory minimum sentences for major violent crimes. "And when that clearly wasn't going to happen this session, bills like mine became a target to kill."

Bonham, Jorgensen and Leriche all pledge to carry the fight forward and try to pass Ezra's Law in some form in the future.

Meanwhile, doctors may be able to improve Ezra's life in a small but important way, they may be able to remove his tracheal tube. "We're pretty excited about that," says Jorgensen. "It's something we never thought we'd be able to say out loud that he would get that trach out."

Jorgensen says having the tube removed likely means fewer infections in Ezra's throat and lungs.


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