Deputized troopers may snarl MultCo’s protest prosecution plans

2020 Protests

Move seemingly overrides MultCo DA's limited prosecution approach

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More and more questions have accumulated following the announcement that Oregon State Police troopers had been deputized by U.S. Marshals.

The move, which was made in response to the growing unrest in Portland, means a deputized OSP trooper can arrest someone for a federal crime and turn the case over to a federal prosecutor instead of a state prosecutor.

Doing so would essentially override Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Shmidt’s policy of limited prosecution for certain charges related to the ongoing protests. Last month, Schmidt’s office announced charges such as Interfering with a Police Officer or Criminal Trespass would not be prosecuted and people arrested for those crimes would be quickly released.

Lewis & Clark Law Professor Tung Yin said the workaround could spell more federal crimes coming out of the protests.

“Even if DA Mike Schmidt is taking a hands off approach of, ‘Well, I’m not going to prosecute that case,’ that person, theoretically, could face federal charges,” said Yin.

There are some cases of overlap between state and federal charges, however, OSP troopers cannot suddenly turn a state charge into a federal offense.

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Oregon State Police troopers responding to the ongoing protest-related unrest in Portland have been federally deputized, state police confirm.

State police tell KOIN 6 News they’re working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to review arrests made by troopers assigned to Portland for potential prosecution. The troopers assigned to Portland have been cross-deputized by the U.S. Marshals.

The Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt previously announced his office would presumptively decline to prosecute certain misdemeanor charges stemming from the protests, a move which resulted in criticism from law enforcement agencies, including state police in mid-August.

“OSP is not criticizing any officials and we respect the authority of the [Multnomah County] District Attorney, but to meet the Governor’s charge of bringing violence to an end we will use all lawful methods at our disposal,” an Oregon State Police spokesperson said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office said some troopers were federally deputized earlier this summer in order to enter the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse, which had been the epicenter of protests for the first two months.

“They are committed to working with our community, with the goal of protecting free speech, keeping the peace, and keeping people safe as they exercise their right to peacefully protest,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding, “The U.S. Attorney and Multnomah County D.A. work together every day deciding which cases each will prosecute.”

The news of state police troopers being deputized by U.S. Marshals, which was first reported by freelance journalist Deborah Bloom, came a day after sheriffs from surrounding counties declined to send in deputies to help Multnomah County and the Portland Police Bureau after Gov. Brown outlined a law enforcement plan to respond to the unrest.

One person was shot and killed Saturday night near a pro-Trump caravan rally and counterprotest in downtown Portland, bringing a renewed spotlight on the city that has seen more than 90 days of consecutive protests and hundreds of resulting arrests.

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