State launches ethics investigation of Terry Bean's lawyer
The organization that investigates lawyer misconduct is reviewing whether Portland defense lawyer Derek Ashton paid off a victim in order to kill the 2015 sex abuse prosecution of a prominent democratic donor and activist, Terry Bean.
The Oregon State Bar ethics probe is the latest turn of events after Portland police reopened the criminal investigation of Bean late last year, which led to new charges by the Lane County District Attorney. Ashton, who defended Bean in both prosecutions, has denied wrongdoing by either one of the two men.
The earlier case, prosecuting the prominent Democratic donor and gay marriage activist over an alleged hotel-room encounter with a 15-year-old boy in Eugene, collapsed when the victim could not be located to testify.
A deputy prosecutor in the case recently claimed in court that Ashton, a former Multnomah County prosecutor, was a central player in a scheme to hide and then "reward" the victim with a $220,000 payment in exchange for not testifying in the case. The potential "bribery" scheme remains under investigation by police.
Ashton, in filings, has denied any such scheme, saying that the $225,000 paid to the alleged victim in the Bean prosecution was strictly to protect Bean's reputation by settling an expected lawsuit against Bean in civil court. He and Bean's other lawyers have blasted the prosecution's case as riddled with inaccuracies and mischaracterizations.
"There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Bean paid M.S.G. a settlement to avoid service, or as a 'reward' for not testifying as the state suggests," said Ashton's fellow lawyer on the case, Cliff Davidson, in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. "The only evidence is that Mr. Bean entered into legitimate, run-of-the-mill civil settlement agreements with someone threatening civil claims against him. That is not unusual, and it is not a crime."
Ashton, a partner in the firm Sussman Shank, has handled some high-profile cases, including the case of former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea.
The prosecution motion, which was debated in court this morning, included an affidavit by Portland Police Detective Jeff Myers that references text messages and emails between Ashton and the alleged victim's then-lawyer Lori Deveny, among others.
With about 15,000 members, the Oregon State Bar is deputized by the Oregon Supreme Court to probe complaints about lawyers who lie, provide poor representation, or steal their clients' money.
Sometimes it opens investigations independently based on news accounts or court filings that raise ethical questions.
In response to a records request for any file opened on Ashton, a spokeswoman for the Bar confirmed that the review was opened "in response to recent filings in Lane County Circuit Court in relation to (the) State v. Terrence Patrick Bean case."
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.