Kozowski Fired from Deschutes County Sheriff

Deputy Eric Kozowski was fired on Wednesday by Sheriff L. Shane Nelson based on internal investigations which concluded that  Kozowski violated Sheriff’s Office policies.

Kozowski was placed on paid administrative leave on September 24, 2017 due to allegations from 2010 and 2016. Kozowski allegedly failed to take a report in 2010 and failed to arrest a wanted suspect in 2016.

Kozowski challenged Sheriff Nelson for his position in the 2016 election.

In a press release Sheriff Nelson stated, “I expect members of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office to adhere to the mission and values of this office. I will continue to enforce the highest standards of professionalism and conduct at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.”

Kozowski’s lawyer, Michael McGean, released a statement just after the Sheriff’s Office announced Kozowski’s termination. In his statement McGean maintains that the investigation, and now termination, of Kozowski was retaliatory.

“Deputy Kozowski’s termination is clearly retaliation for exercising his constitutional rights of free speech and political participation in running against Sheriff Nelson,” said McGean. “That retaliation and the Sheriff’s violations of State and Federal law will be the subject of a lawsuit that will be filed shortly in the federal court of Oregon.”

The investigation into the allegations against Kozowski were opened after he announced his candidacy for Sheriff in March 2016.

McGean also said Kozowski was fired for an alleged violation pertaining to the wearing of Sheriff’s Office uniforms for campaign related activity, not the failure to write a report or arrest a suspect as was stated in the Sheriff’s Office statement.

Remembering Kaylee: The Life And Legacy Of Kaylee Sawyer

It’s been an emotional week for the friends and family of Kaylee Sawyer as they came face-to-face with her killer in a Deschutes County courtroom before he was sentenced to life in prison for her murder.

Kaylee’s father and stepmother sit down with Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan for the first time since Kaylee’s death to talk about her life, legacy, and how they’re keeping her memory alive.

DOJ Puts Pressure on Sanctuary Cities

On Wednesday 23 jurisdictions, including Oregon State, received letters from the U.S. Department of Justice asking for documents to prove that they are cooperating with immigration authorities and threatening to pull public safety grants.

The letters are part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ promised crackdown on sanctuary cities and states.

“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a press release from the DOJ (Department of Justice). “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law. We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement—enough is enough.”

The letter sent to Michael Schmidt, the Executive Director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission,  warned that the DOJ could use subpoena power to force them to provide documents showing they aren’t withholding information about the immigration status of people in custody.

Similar letters were sent to cities like Chicago, New York, Denver and Los Angeles, and the states of Illinois and California. DOJ officials said the 23 jurisdictions have been previously warned they need to provide information about their policies to be receive grants.

According to the DOJ website, jurisdictions who refuse to turnover documents, or whose policies are deemed counter to federal immigration laws, may be forced to return federal grant dollars from a 2016 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant and may be deemed ineligible for a 2017 Byrne Grant.

The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant is a memorial grant and is the leading source of federal justice funding for state and local jurisdictions. The grant provides states, tribes and local governments across the U.S. with funding for target community specific law enforcement needs.

Oregon was allocated $3,099,650 through the grant for 2016.

Sanctuary cities, counties, and states are jurisdictions with laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions or policies that prohibited local law enforcement agencies from complying with ICE detainers and denying ICE access to interview incarcerated undocumented immigrants.

In Oregon this means an undocumented immigrant that has committed a crime in a sanctuary jurisdiction would be penalized for that crime but would not be detained due to their undocumented status. It also means local and state law enforcement will not assist immigration officials in locating or apprehending people due to their undocumented status.

Relying on local law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants is the primary tool used by ICE to gain custody for deportations.

In response to the letter, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in tweet, “Oregon will not be bullied by a Trump Administration that’s focused on diving our country. Oregon’s laws are in place to uphold the civil rights of all Oregonians. The federal government cannot, under the US Constitution, force state law enforcement officers to implement its policies.”

Here’s is the full letter written to Oregon from the DOJ:

Dear Director Schmidt:

Thank you for your response to our November 15, 2017, letter regarding your jurisdiction’s compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a federal law with which your jurisdiction must comply as an eligibility requirement for receiving Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funding from the Department of Justice (Department or DOJ). After reviewing your response, the Department remains concerned that your jurisdiction’s laws, policies, or practices may violate section 1373, or, at a minimum, that they may be interpreted or applied in a manner inconsistent with section 1373.

In light of these concerns, the Department is requesting certain documents as described below. This request is made consistent with 2 CFR § 200.336, as adopted by Department regulation 2 CFR § 2800.101. In your FY 2016 Byrne JAG award, you agreed to the following (listed as special condition #23):

[The recipient agrees to] cooperate with [the Bureau of Justice Assistance (“BJA”)] and [Office of the Chief Financial Officer (“OCFO”)] on all grant monitoring requests…. The recipient [also] agrees to provide to BJA and OCFO all documentation necessary to complete monitoring tasks, including documentation related to any subawards made under this award. Further, the recipient agrees to abide by reasonable deadlines set by BJA and OCFO for providing the requested documents. Failure to cooperate with BJA’s/OCFO’s grant monitoring activities may result in sanctions affecting the recipient’s DOJ awards, including but not limited to withholdings and/or other restrictions on the recipient’s access to grant funds; referral to the Office of the Inspector General for audit review; designation of the recipient as a DOJ High Risk grantee; or termination of an award(s).

Please respond to the below request by providing to Chris Casto, BJA, at Chris.Casto@usdoj.gov by no later than February 23, 2018, all responsive documents, consistent with the instructions in Attachment A.

Documents Requested: All documents reflecting any orders, directives, instructions, or guidance to your law enforcement employees (including, but not limited to, police officers, correctional officers, and contract employees), whether formal or informal, that were distributed, produced, and/or in effect during the relevant timeframe, regarding whether and how these employees may, or may not, communicate with the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or their agents, whether directly or indirectly.

BJA will review your submissions and seek additional information, if necessary. The Department fully anticipates your complete cooperation in this matter. Should you fail to respond in a complete and timely manner, the Department will subpoena these documents in accordance with 34 U.S.C. §§ 10225, 10221, 10230, 10151 – 10158, 10102(a)(6), 10110, and 10110 note.

These materials are critical to our ongoing review. Should the Department determine your jurisdiction is out of compliance with section 1373, the Department may, as detailed in your award documents, seek return of your FY 2016 grant funds, require additional conditions for receipt of any FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for which you have applied, and/or deem you ineligible for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funds.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. We look forward to working through this matter with you. Any specific questions concerning this request can be sent to directly to Tracey Trautman, BJA Deputy Director, at Tracey.Trautman@usdoj.gov or call (202) 305-1491.”

Preliminary Results Look Positive for Measure 101

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday morning with 920 of 1335 precincts reporting, 61.54 percent have voted in favor of Measure 101 and 38.46 percent voted against.

Measure 101 approves a temporary assessment to fund health care for low income residents and families in Oregon and to stabilize health insurance premiums. The temporary assessments, which is basically a tax, will be applied to insurance companies, some hospitals and other insurance and health care providers.

Proponents of the measure, which include the Hospital Association, have said this measure will ensure that low income Oregonians are able to keep their healthcare.

Opponents have said it is basically a tax to cover for bad budgeting in the state government.

On Tuesday night the Hospital Association declared victory on Measure 101.

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) issued the following statement celebrating the passage of Measure 101 on Tueaday night.
OAHHS, which represents all of Oregon’s 62 community hospitals, was a key supporter of the Yes for Healthcare coalition.

“On behalf of our patients and the communities we serve, Oregon’s hospitals are deeply gratified by the passage of Measure 101,” said Andy Davidson, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. “We are appreciative of the partnership of so many organizations and individuals from across the state who helped to make this outcome possible.”

“Tonight’s vote is critical affirmation of our collective belief that Oregon is better off with a robust Medicaid program that tends to the needs of patients before, during and after an illness or the birth of a child. It is a recognition that our vulnerable friends and neighbors need access to the lifesaving services that our entire health care system provides. We are proud to have been an integral partner in fighting for these patients and their families.”

Hospitals have been longtime advocates for the Oregon Health Plan, working alongside the legislature for the last 15 years to develop funding solutions for the program that ensure coverage for as many Oregonians as possible.

In coming months, hospitals will work cooperatively with legislative leadership, the Governor and other stakeholders to craft additional sustainable funding solutions for the years to come to ensure the stability and health of the Oregon Health Plan. Hospitals are committed to continuing their work on future budget solutions that maintain coverage for Oregon’s most vulnerable.

In Deschutes County 54 percent of voters voted in favor of Measure 101. In Crook County 62 percent voted against the measure and in Jefferson County 57 percent also voted against the measure.

Edwin Lara Sentenced to Life in Prison

Today, Edwin Lara was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer.

Lara submitted a guilty plea this morning for aggravated murder and robbery. The sentence was handed down by Judge Micheal Adler after hours of impact statements, both written and in-person, were presented to the court by Sawyer’s friends and family.

Adler said the brutality of the murder, along with Lara’s position as a COCC public safety officer, made the case stand out to him.

“You are fortunate a jury is not deciding whether to sentence you to death,” said Adler. Adler added that a true life sentence is the most serious sentence anyone actually receives in Oregon and called it “appropriate for this case.”

After Edwin Lara plead guilty to aggravated murder and robbery in the first-degree, Lara also waived his right to 48-hour sentencing.

With that Judge Adler allowed impact statements from Sawyer’s friends and family. Sawyer’s mother Juli Walden VanCleave said to Lara during her statement, “You have failed to silence her.” Talking about how Sawyer’s death united the community and there is now a foundation and a scholarship in her honor.

“I’ll always be the mother of a murder victim, but your mother will always be the mother of a murderer and a rapist,” said VanCleave.

One of Sawyer’s friends who testified said she regularly reaches for her phone to text or call Sawyer before she remembers that she can’t. She also said she still struggles to sleep or to be alone at night.

“I don’t even want to have children anymore because I know that monsters exist,” said Sawyer’s friend.

Sawyer’s maternal grandparents, Jim and Sharon Walden, and family friend Doug Gray all expressed frustration at Lara’s plea deal, which allowed him to avoid the death penalty that was being sought by District Attorney John Hummel, by pleading guilty.

The court took a break after testimony from Sawyer’s mother, maternal grandparents and friend. Sawyer’s father, paternal grandparents and co-workers from Awbrey Dental Group read their impact statements this afternoon.

Sawyer’s coworkers both delivered tearful testimony about how her murder has affect their lives and work and Sawyer’s father, the only person who addressed the court from the witness stand, held back tears before echoing that his daughter’s voice was not silenced by her murder.

After a brief recess Lara was able to address the court. Much of Sawyer’s family, including her friends, coworkers, mother and paternal grandparents all chose to leave the courtroom and returned after Lara’s statement.

“Today, I’ve seen your pain,” said Lara, who turned around to address those gathered in the courtroom, rather than the judge. “Today, I’ve seen your hate. I don’t have much to say to you at this moment. I can only pray. Someday, I would like to speak to whoever will listen. God Almighty, who art in Heaven, I’ll ask you please, heal the hearts of this community. I ask you to please heal the hearts of this family, of everyone who is in this place today, and that Kaylee Sawyer rest in peace Amen.”

Sawyer’s grandfather Jim Walden walked out during Lara’s statement and returned with the rest of Sawyer’s family.

Lara, a 32-year-old former COCC campus safety officer, is accused of abducting 23-year-old Sawyer as she was walking home, killing her on the college campus and dumping her body in a canyon west of Redmond in July 2016.

Lara was also accused of sexually assaulting Sawyer but, according to Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, once Lara’s initial confession was thrown out, sexual assault became harder to prove. He also noted that Lara refused to plead guilty to sexual assault as part of his plea deal. Hummel said they’re main goal was to get a life sentence so they decided with the family to not pursue a sexual assault conviction in order to avoid a less harsh sentence.

Lara will carry out his entire sentence in Oregon, regardless of what is decided in the case against him in California.

Stay with Central Oregon Daily on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, and we will have report a report from Anyssa Bohanan at 6 p.m. on KOHD-ABC and 7 p.m. on KBNZ-CBS.

A New Direction for Deschutes County Jail

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has made changes to the jail and introduced its newest corrections captain, all as part of efforts to better the conditions of the jail after the death of an inmate in 2014.

It’s been more than three years since Edwin Mays was arrested and placed in detention at the Deschutes County Jail where he died of a methamphetamine overdose hours later.

Since then, the Deschutes County Service’s office has made changes to both the facility and their procedures to prevent that kind of tragedy from happening again.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan went inside the jail for an exclusive look at the changes they’re making both with the structure, and the culture.

First Court Appearance for Woman Accused of Killing Cyclist

The woman who allegedly struck and killed a cyclist is now on house arrest and banned from consuming any alcohol until her arraignment in February.

Shantel Lynn Witt, 41, of Alfalfa had her first hearing today after she was arrested on Dec. 30 and charged with DUII, three counts of Recklessly Endangering Another, Reckless Driving and Manslaughter in the First Degree.

Witt was allegedly driving under the influence on the evening of Dec. 30 when her car crossed over into the opposite lane and struck 38-year-old Marika Stone who was biking with two other people near the corner of Dodds and Obernolte Road in Deschutes County. Stone was declared dead at the scene.

Roughly 30 local cyclists and community members attended today’s hearing to support Stone’s family.

Witt’s bail was set at $270,000. She posted 10 percent of this amount and, per Oregon law, was released from jail. During her first court appearance on Tuesday, the state attorney asked that Witt’s bail be increased, that she be put on house arrest, that she be given an alcohol monitor and that her driving privileges be revoked.

The judge did not raise Witt’s bail but he did agree to revoke Witt’s driving privileges. The judge also ordered Witt to wear an alcohol monitor, banned from purchasing or consuming alcohol and put on house arrest.

Witt will be back in court for her arraignment on Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. and many of the local cyclists said they’ll be back again to support Stone’s family and represent Bend’s biking community.

Potential Plea Deal for Lara

A potential plea deal for Edwin Lara, the accused killer of Bend resident Kaylee Sawyer, is in the works but far from finalized.

Under the proposed deal Lara would plead guilty to aggravated murder and would receive life without the possibility of parole, but possibility to seek the death penalty would be dropped. This is according to a Facebook posts from Kaylee’s mother, Juli Walden Van Cleave, posted today on her public Facebook page.

The information from Van Cleave was confirmed by a second source that was at the settlement hearing and spoke with Central Oregon Daily reporters today.

The deal is not finalized and attorneys in the Lara case are under a court order not to speak publicly about the case.

Lara is due to go on trial in the fall of 2018 on four counts of aggravated murder in the July 2016 killing of COCC student Sawyer.

Lara, a 32-year-old former COCC campus safety officer, is accused of abducting 23-year-old Sawyer as she was walking home, killing her on the college campus and dumping her body in a canyon west of Redmond.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel announced earlier that he would seek the death penalty in the case.

Lara is expected to be in court for a two-day hearing on January 22 and 23.

Tune in to Central Oregon Daily at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

9 P.M. Routine

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has unveil its new campaign to prevent theft, and it’s pretty easy.

How often do you get out of your car after a long day at work and simply forget to lock it? It can be easy to get distracted enough to forget that you’ve left your vehicle unlocked, but it can take just one forgetful moment to make your vehicle a target for thieves.

That’s why the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has begun a new online campaign that they’re hoping will lower the number of thefts seen in the Central Oregon area.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan sat down with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Oregon to discuss how they’re hoping the online campaign will encourage residents to lock their doors and discourage thieves from taking what’s not there’s out of unlocked vehicles.

Deschutes County Launches Program to Get Residents Prepared for Disaster

Deschutes County Emergency Management officials have launched a new program called “Make-A-Kit Mondays” to help residents prepare for a natural disaster.

Central Oregon Daily’s Lisa Carton looks at what it takes to really be prepared. You can follow Make-A-Kit Mondays on the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Oregon‘s Facebook and Twitter pages every Monday thru October 8th.