Multnomah Deputy Dwight Richey charged, but another case looms
Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Dwight David Richey was charged Thursday with multiple counts of sex abuse.
But documents obtained by the Portland Tribune suggest a case involving the same alleged victim, based on a 911 call she made last fall after an argument with her then-boyfriend, could complicate the prosecution of Richey. The earlier prosecution was dismissed as inappropriate by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office after having filed it nine months before.
Richey, a corrections deputy who was stationed at the Multnomah Circuit Courthouse in downtown Portland, is a well-known figure in local legal circles. He has been on leave for more than a year.
Since last year, the investigation conducted by the Washington County Sheriff's Office expanded from one allegation of rape to include at least one other alleged sexual-assault victim. Richey also fell under suspicion of official misconduct after allegations were made that he'd used his position to have consensual sex during work hours at the courthouse.
But official misconduct and rape are not charged in the new indictment, which was first reported by the Portland Tribune. And only one victim, the one who claimed rape, is alleged.
According to the indictment filed in Multnomah Circuit Court, Richey was charged with three counts of second-degree sexual abuse, five counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of harassment. Second-degree sex abuse entails sexual intercourse without consent. All crimes are alleged to have taken place on May 11, 2017.
Richey, who turns 49 next week, is expected to plead not guilty. A relative of his last year told the Portland Tribune that the rape allegation was a "terrible lie," adding "we are a law-abiding family."
His attorney, Russell Barnett, said he did "not have enough information yet to comment," but "we will vigorously defend Mr. Richey against these allegations."
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office placed Richey on administrative leave on July 11, 2017. The office in the past said it would not conduct an internal investigation until the criminal investigation was done.
On Thursday morning, a Multnomah County Sheriff's spokesman said he could not release any information for the article first reported by the Tribune. But shortly after 4p.m. the office released a statement saying it holds its uniformed deputies "to a higher standard because of the inherent responsibility bestowed upon them
"First and foremost, the Sheriff's Office appreciates how difficult it was for the victim in this incident to come forward and report these allegations. We understand the significant emotional and physical pain that comes with abuse and victimization, and we hope this investigation helps the victim begin the healing process."
The Washington County Sheriff's Office declined to comment Thursday morning.
Because of Richey's local ties, the case was overseen by the Oregon Department of Justice.
Authorities did not initially report Richey's name or any of the allegations. The rape allegation and Richey's name was first reported by KATU last November. The piece was based on a conversation with the alleged victim, though it did not name her.
Earlier case could complicate
The reason for the delay in charging Richey is unclear, but a Justice Department Spokeswoman told the Oregonian that it was due to "witness availability." It's unclear is this refers to a different indictment filed based on allegations last fall by the same woman against her then-boyfriend. The man was named in the indictment of Richey as having testified before the grand jury that issued the charges.
The earlier case proceeded for months through the court system, before being dismissed last month by District Attorney Rod Underhill as inappropriate.
It's not certain the dismissed case will come into play in the pending prosecution of Richey. But typically, defense attorneys will use whatever evidence possible to attempt to undermine the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses.
The earlier case centered around a Sept. 10, 2017 incident in which the woman entered her Portland firefighter boyfriend's home at about 4:30a.m. and found him in bed lying next to another woman, both asleep. Apparently upset, she poured red wine on them both, then smashed the bottle, wine glasses and a vase on the floor. After she began filming his naked body with her phone "to document his infidelity," he tried to grab her phone, leading to a struggle. She called 911 to report he'd smashed the phone, according to court documents and a district attorney memo obtained by the Tribune.
The firefighter, Jon Burgess, was charged with third-degree robbery, assault, harassment and criminal mischief. But eventually Underhill's office dropped the charges and concluded the man should never have been indicted in the first place, according to the memo, which was obtained under Oregon's public records law.
The memo, written by a top Underhill assistant, Chuck Sparks, documents a June 8, 2018 meeting at which the prosecutor explained to the woman why the office decided to dismiss her case after nine months. According to the memo, Sparks told her that she herself committed several crimes that night — including trespass, criminal mischief, harassment, felony invasion of privacy and probably burglary—and therefore probably wouldn't be able to testify without incriminating herself.
The memo said the woman had falsely claimed that another prosecutor had not interviewed her, though he had. And that she made claims that a witness saw her being strangled three times by the man, but the witness told police she saw no violence. It said she and Burgess exchanged "manipulative" messages after the investigation began.
In the meeting, Sparks essentially told the woman she was largely to blame for the struggle she called 911 about.
"As I explained to [the alleged victim]," Sparks wrote, "when one person goes into another person's home while that person is sleeping, and enters their bedroom and attacks them in some fashion (here, by pouring wine on them), trashes their kitchen, and photographs them naked, they should expect a strong reaction, especially one directed at getting the phone containing the naked photos."
For the man to have grabbed her phone to halt an illegal act was an "understandable reaction by somone who is terminating a trespass whie also trying to secure the naked images of his person so they cannot be kept or used to further invade his privacy, and that of his companion, e.g. on social media," the prosecutor wrote. "This case should not have been issued."
It's unclear how much of the evidence from the earlier case would be admissible in court and thus could be used to Richey's advantage. The woman's attorney did not respond to a request to talk about the two cases. But reporter Mike Benner of KGW reported on Twitter that the alleged victim sent him a statement saying, "I feel some relief that it's in the hands of the justice system and God."