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Clackamas County DA disputes reader's column on deputy's domestic violence case

In a recent Pamplin Media op-ed, Clackamas County resident Brian Fitzgerald made a series of disparaging allegations against Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson that are untrue. Once again, he has penned an op-ed filled with lies, and I am writing to correct the record.

Clackamas County Sheriff Sgt. Micah Hibpshman was accused of domestic violence. Because my staff has worked closely with Hibpshman, I asked the Marion County District Attorney's Office to review the case for prosecution to avoid any actual or perceived bias. The case was declined for prosecution.

Clarkson and I have each spent our careers fighting for justice on behalf of domestic violence victims. We both know that Fitzgerald's assertion that, "automatic prosecution is the gold standard when domestic violence is involved," is simply not true. Everyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Yes, even domestic abusers and police officers. "Automatically prosecuting" someone accused of domestic violence is not only unethical, it's immoral.

In evaluating a case, a prosecutor must consider whether the case is provable without the victim's cooperation and if not, whether the victim will testify against their abuser. The Constitution requires a victim be physically present and subject to cross examination before their testimony may be allowed in court. In Hibpshman's case, the victim's attorney informed the prosecutor she would not testify at grand jury or participate in prosecution. Accordingly, the prosecutor determined the case was not provable and declined the case.

Like jurors, prosecutors are required to review evidence dispassionately and without conjecture, guesswork or speculation. Unlike Fitzgerald, we are not at liberty to accuse someone simply because "it's not a stretch to suppose" something.

Fitzgerald accuses Clarkson of bias because she is married to a police officer. He asserts that, "At no time should someone married to a cop be investigating police malfeasance." Clarkson had never met or even heard of Hibpshman before receiving this case. That's why I asked her office to review it. For Fitzgerald's allegation to be true, Clarkson would have to be willing to put her profession, career and reputation on the line for Hibpshman simply because he shares a profession with her husband. Ridiculous. What's more, Clarkson didn't personally review the case; a senior prosecutor with decades of experience (and not married to a police officer) did.

Fitzgerald's claim that Clarkson is "tough on crime when the individual is black, brown or destitute" is laughable and proves my point. It's easy to make an allegation, but much more difficult to prove it. Fitzgerald offers no evidence to back his claim because he can't.

The truth is, Clarkson is a smart, courageous and dedicated public servant who suffers this kind of nonsense on our behalf. Marion County is fortunate to have her.

John Wentworth is the district attorney of Clackamas County.

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