Washington County deputy files civil rights lawsuit
Action seeks damages based on sexual misconduct by a now-fired deputy who was convicted last fall.
The Washington County sheriff's deputy who was the victim of sexual misconduct by another now-fired and convicted sheriff's corporal has filed a lawsuit alleging that her civil rights were violated.
The federal lawsuit by Angela Branford names Jonathan Christensen, who pleaded guilty last year to one count each of strangulation, coercion and official misconduct. He was sentenced Sept. 6 to probation.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by Portland lawyer Daniel Snyder in U.S. District Court in Portland, also names Washington County, Sheriff Pat Garrett, Lt. John Black, and the Portland Police Bureau, which at Garrett's request in 2015 investigated anonymous allegations of sex on the job and other sexual misconduct.
Two other deputies lost their jobs in separate incidents involving misconduct or harassment, although the 2015 letter did not specifically name one of the deputies. Both have received probation.
Branford remains employed as a sheriff's deputy.
Branford's lawsuit seeks unspecified economic and noneconomic damages and legal fees for violations of Branford's civil rights. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administer state and federal civil rights laws, have allowed the suit to proceed.
When Christensen accepted a plea deal Sept. 6 in Washington County Circuit Court, Judge Charles Bailey said then he had been unwilling to accept the deal but did so only because the victim — then unnamed in news accounts — did not want to go to trial. She did speak during the proceeding, which resulted in a sentence for Christensen of 80 hours of community service, restitution of $12,000 and training in anger management.
Christensen also lost his police certification from the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and agreed not to seek employment in law enforcement.
His conviction of coercion — a Class C felony — was delayed until July 2018. If he completes other requirements of his probation, the charge can be dismissed. Maximum penalties are a five-year prison term and a fine of $125,000.
Other charges against him were dropped as part of the plea deal.
After a series of events detailed in the lawsuit, Christensen — wearing his uniform and gun — arrived at her home on March 7, 2015, pulled Branford's hair and choked her in an attempt to continue a sexual relationship that began after Christensen became her superior.
Christensen was fired by the county in August 2015, after the Portland police investigation was completed, and indicted by a grand jury in December 2015.
Christensen's lawyer said his client disputed the account and maintains that the relationship was consensual.
In addition to the county, Sheriff Garrett and Christensen, Branford's lawsuit names Lt. John Black, who obtained a copy of her telephone records from investigating officers at the Portland Police Bureau. The suit asserts that she had a reasonable expectation that personal information she disclosed would not get back to her employer.