Don’t be an accomplice in failure

It has been a half century since the first Earth Day and likewise since the enactment of the National Environmental Protection Act and the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Since that time CO2 levels have risen at an unprecedented rate and exceed 410 ppm, 50% of US waterways cannot sustain healthy aquatic life, 25% of the bird population is gone and Americans are subjected to thousands of toxic chemicals every day through the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.

Made legal by our so-called system of environmental protection and designed to support commerce over sustainability this has in turn led to huge wealth gaps, social injustice, environmentally caused illness and record levels of houselessness, poverty and unemployment.  All of this has been presided over by the two corporatist political parties.

Peer reviewed studies indicate that climate change increases both the risk and impact of a pandemic. Now, rapid changes in our climate directly attributed to non-sustainable resource extraction and industrial practices have literally set the West Coast on fire.

The extent of the long-term health and economic impacts are predicted by well-known economists, including Yanis Varoufakis and Richard Wolff, to lead to a prolonged depression if not a complete collapse of our financial system as we know it. Tribal loyalty and adherence to the two major parties has failed and failed catastrophically.

We are in fact a failed state. Would any voter want to be complicit in such a failure of leadership by voting to maintain the status quo?

Today, one third of Oregon is controlled by real estate investment trusts owned by out of state shareholders.  Operated as monoculture tree plantations, these farms employ harmful aerial spraying that contaminate Oregon’s waterways. Studies of past Oregon wildfires has shown that plantation tree farms burn hotter than natural old growth forests and unlike real forests that burn in a mosaic pattern and recover, tree farms, on the other hand, ignite like flamethrowers, forming “firenados” that jump roads and rivers.  

We are witnessing the resultant loss of human life and property as a direct consequence of a conflagration ignited by climate and these ill-thought forest practices in Oregon, California and Washington creating a perfect storm for disaster.

Supremacists arrogantly scoff at the notion our environment, our climate, the whole ecosystems we all depend upon for our very survival as a species should be entitled to the same legal protections as humankind. Nature and all its living, breathing embodiments, is regarded as chattel, enslaved to mankind, mere property under our current system of law.

Nature is now demonstrating in full force, in a voice so clear only the most obtuse can possibly ignore the folly of this belief system.

While both the Democrats and the Republicans have done their best over the years to quash true democracy by standing in the way of third parties, we do still have choices. First, of course, is the cosmic question of whether to continue to legitimize the two parties that guided our dissent into this abyss? Doing so, unfortunately, perpetuates the same thinking that created these problems in the first place.

The next choice is to reject both parties and reregister to vote or at the very least reject pro-gas, corporate sponsored candidates like Melissa Cribbins and Dick Anderson.

State Senate District 5 constituents have an alternative candidate who opposes non sustainable fossil fuel projects like the proposed Jordan Cove LNG and gas pipeline that will use eminent domain to seize private land. Nominated by the Pacific Green Party, Lakeside City Councilor Shauleen Higgins will refuse corporate campaign donations and work to improve our system of law to recognize the rights of communities to protect themselves to higher standards than state and federal regulatory agencies.

Pacific Green Party candidate, Nathalie Paravicini is running for Oregon Secretary of State. The secretary of state sits on the Oregon Land Use Board and is instrumental in determining how the State’s forests, including the Elliott State Forest, are managed.

For 244 years we’ve given this grand two party experiment a fair shot and it isn’t working. It’s a hard slog to change a political system but one sure way to fail is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Don’t be complicit. Vote for change like your grandchildren’s lives depend upon it, because they do.




Recall campaign bombs

The clumsily run campaign to recall Coquille City Councilor Matt Rowe has failed to turn in the required 250 valid signatures to put the matter before the voters. Comprised of what amounted to little more than a Matt Rowe enemies list which included Coquille Mayor Kathi Simonetti, Councilor Ann Parker, newsprint publisher Jean Ivey-Gurney and even, it appears, Commissioner Bob Main, well known for holding a grudge in perpetuity, whose wife Deb Main, acted as treasurer for the committee.

Voters can still look forward to some choices in the upcoming city council races. Councilor Julie Nighswonger is running for reelection and John Cooper and Jay Westrum are hoping to join the council in January. Paul Recanzone, son of Jean Ivey-Gurney, has also thrown his hat in the ring.

In a surprise move, Mayor Kathi Simonetti also failed to turn in the required paperwork and necessary signatures to be considered for reelection. Rowe has entered the mayoral race along with Sam Flaherty a local pastor and volunteer fireman. If Rowe prevails and wins the mayoral race his council seat will become vacant and will be filled by a vote of the council just as Dave Chappelle recently filled the seat vacated by Mike Latham.

The Coquillian will be researching the candidates and providing information to help our readers make informed decisions this November.




Double, double toil and trouble

Time is running out for the Committee to Recall Rowe to turn in 250 valid signatures of registered Coquille voters by September 1, in order to put the matter on the ballot. The committee is being run out of Jean Ivey-Gurney’s office on the corner of Central Avenue & First St in Coquille and the building is festooned with Recall Matt Rowe campaign signs.

Ivey-Gurney produces a weekly publication and was recently sent a cease and desist notice ordering her to stop using the name “The Sentinel” or be subject to litigation. Frazier Media, LLC, publisher of The Coquillian and The Coquille Valley Sentinel owns the assumed business name, The Sentinel.

Ninety days to obtain 250 signatures amounts to less than 3 signatures per day but the campaign appears to be loosely run. Reviewing the campaign’s finances, no cash or in-kind contributions to the recall campaign nor the cost of the campaign signs have been reported to OreStar, Oregon’s campaign finance tracking system. In-kind contributions could include services in lieu of cash, free advertising or publicity provided by local news publications. The committee treasurer is Deb Main, wife of Bob Main, Coos County Commissioner.

The campaign filed its original paperwork on June 1, 2020 naming Danette Foord, Jo Teel and Thomas Konomos as petitioners and who all have ties to Ivey-Gurney. Foord is Ivey-Gurney’s step-daughter. None of the petitioners have made themselves available to media including The World newspaper and The Coquillian. In fact, the real movers and shakers behind the recall appear to be Ivey-Gurney, Mayor Kathi Simonetti and Councilor Ann Parker who along with Ivey-Gurney is attempting to collect signatures from her office. All three benefited by the distribution of $8,000 in urban renewal funds to make sidewalk repairs in front of their businesses that according to city ordinance should have been paid by the property owners or tenants and not Coquille taxpayers.

“Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.” Witches song from MacBeth

In keeping with The Coquillian’s earlier theme that this running saga would make for a great oleo-melodrama at the Sawduster Theater, the trio have been likened by some to the three sisters in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. The recall petition which appears to have been filled out by someone who’s handwriting strongly resembles that of Ivey-Gurney claims Rowe is disruptive at council meetings. No one on the committee, or anyone else for that matter has provided examples or substantiated this claim and Ivey-Gurney, who does not reside in Coquille, hasn’t been seen at a council meeting in years.

The other claim is that Rowe has abused his office. Like the first claim there have been no examples or evidence to support this allegation.

“Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;”

Ivey-Gurney pulled some ingredients off the shelf to add to the sisters’ cauldron and published an anonymous letter to the editor in the guise of anonymous article making many potentially libelous claims and allegations against Rowe and even his family in her August 19 paper.

“Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,”

Ivey-Gurney has refused to name the author of the anonymous letter or who authored the article alleging Rowe directed city timber contract’s to the benefit of his father’s employer. She then said because of the reporting by The Coquillian has she would not be commenting further and hung up.

There are five cardinal rules of journalism to which The Coquillian endeavors to adhere. In particular truth and accuracy, getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. When we cannot corroborate information The Coquillian will tell you. We also believe in accountability. A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors, we must correct them.

The Coquillian has reviewed the minutes of the city council meetings related to allegations printed in Ivey-Gurney’s publication. These records dating from 2014 to 2015 while Rowe was mayor prove that the claims published as fact in her paper are completely false. Rowe recused himself from voting on matters related to a Rink Creek Timber sale in question, citing specifically that his father was an administrator of one of the companies involved. Ultimately, the contract went to Scott Timber, a company Rowe’s father has no association with.

The timber sale produced a profit for the city and Rowe and the council voted to transfer one-third of the $1.2 million in timber revenue into the city street improvement fund and not the other way around as alleged in the anonymous and unsourced article.

Ivey-Gurney’s paper even took a shot at Rowe’s mother, a former city financial director, implying that she “could not account for a portion of the funds” from the harvest. The Coquillian has not reviewed city audits dating from this period but any discrepancies would have been divulged by external auditors at that time.

A further allegation dating from 2018 occurred while Rowe was not even a member of the city council.

The article is accompanied by an image of a service dog forced to wear Recall Matt Rowe campaign signs in the recent heat. The dog belongs to the husband of Daniece Day, another step-daughter of Ivey-Gurney.

Via email, The Coquillian asked Ivey-Gurney if she vetted the information in the anonymous letter to the editor, prior to publishing and if so how. We asked if she would name the author of the letter, or who wrote the article. Harkening back to accountability in journalism, we also asked if she plans to print a retraction. She has not replied to our queries.




Coquille councilors violate ethics laws?

Coquille Mayor Kathy Simonetti acknowledges downtown business owners failed to meet their fiscal responsibility to fix sidewalks that caused multiple serious falls.

In a letter to the editor of a local newspaper meant to disparage City Councilor Matt Rowe, Mayor Kathi Simonetti admits that Coquille City funds Urban Renewal funds were misdirected toward sidewalk repairs for private business owners on 1st Street. Simonetti’s letter admits the city could have “…forced these businesses make the repairs, with an abatement letter and enforcement…” This would have been the lawful response to the sidewalk problem.  But then she asks, “…how hard do we push?”

Rather than push or for that matter even ask these businesses to repair their sidewalks Simonetti lobbied the council to appropriate urban renewal funds and city funds, adding up to $8,000, to make these repairs on their behalf. She shames Rowe, in her letter, for voting NO.

According to Coquille City ordinance “12.12.020 – Duty to repair and clear sidewalks,” it is the responsibility of the building “owner or occupant” to maintain the sidewalks. Simonetti argued in her letter she didn’t own the building where she maintained a business, Kathi’s Unique Gifts, and wrongly claimed therefore she wasn’t responsible for sidewalk maintenance.

“It is the duty of an owner or occupant of land adjoining a street to maintain in good repair, and remove obstructions from, the adjacent sidewalk.”

Further, city ordinances also require the building owner to bear all liability.

            “The owner of real property responsible for maintaining the adjacent sidewalk shall be primarily liable to any person injured because of any negligence of such owner in failing to maintain the sidewalk in good condition.”

Not only does it appear that the use of both city and URA funds to improve the sidewalks of businesses belonging to city council members violated city ordinances it also appears to have violated Oregon ethics laws.

[ORS 244.040(1)] Oregon’s ethics laws prohibit each public official from gaining a financial benefit or avoiding a financial cost as a result of his or her position.

Clearly, business owners and city councilors Julie Nighswonger, owner of Denny’s Pizza, and Ann Parker, owner of River Cities Realty, along with Mayor Simonetti benefitted from their vote to have the city cover costs of sidewalk maintenance by “avoiding a financial cost” as per Oregon statute.

Parker and Simonetti are both actively trying to have Rowe recalled and they along with their fellow recall committee member, Jean Ivey Gurney all had businesses that benefited from their vote to misuse city funds for sidewalk repairs.




Will recall make the ballot?

The recall of Matt Rowe may make it to the ballot… or will it?

Jean Ivey Gurney has claimed to have in her possession “about 300” signatures toward putting the recall of Councilor Matt Rowe on the ballot. Ivey Gurney, who runs a local newspaper and has invited people to stop in and sign petitions, indicated that she did not know how many signatures had been gathered by the other committee members as the committee “hasn’t met since the first meeting”.  Each petition sheet holds ten signatures so Ivey Gurney should have approximately 30 full signature sheets if her estimate is accurate.

Attempts to reach River Cities Realty, Councilor Ann Parker’s business where she offers petitions available to sign in order to confirm actual numbers were unsuccessful.

Only 250 signatures by September 1 are required to put the recall on the ballot. This will require a special election with a cost well in excess of $5,000 to the city taxpayers. Ivey Gurney did not know when the committee would be submitting their signatures to the clerk’s office for verification.

Rowe doubts the accuracy of the numbers offered by Ivey Gurney.

“It seems unlikely that 300 people have walked into Ivey’s office to sign a petition,” Rowe said via phone. “However, we’ll find out soon enough if and when they submit the signatures.”

Rowe has invited the members of the recall committee to publicly debate him through media ads and newspaper interviews but to date there has been no acceptance from the committee members.

“Personally, I would encourage the recall committee to turn in the signatures as quickly as possible,” said Rowe, “as I am eager to exonerate myself with the voters.”




Melodrama at Coquille City Hall

The Sawdust Theatre may be closed for the season due to COVID-19 but there is still plenty of melodrama emanating from Coquille City Hall to provide entertainment through the rest of the summer. We are talking about the recall effort to oust City Councilman Matt Rowe apparently driven by a handful of business owners on 1st Street, some of whom sit on the city council. Namely, City Councilwoman Ann Parker of River Cities Realty and Mayor Kathy Simonetti along with their ally, Jean Ivey Gurney who operates a weekly newspaper she still calls The Sentinel, even though she does not own that assumed business name.

Ivey Gurney handwrote and personally delivered the paperwork for the recall to the city clerk on June 1. The three chief petitioners Danette Foord, Jo Teel and Thomas Konomos continue to be unavailable for comment, however, the recall “committee” appear to have enlisted Simonetti as their spokesperson.  They are alleging that Rowe has abused his office while Rowe denies this and has asserted that Parker, Simonetti who also had a business on 1st Street along with Councilwoman Julie Nighswonger, owner of Denny’s Pizza, have all had conflicts of interest when voting on city business.

“The only block in all of Coquille,” according to Rowe, “that got a special favor of sidewalk resurfacing, costing approximately $8,000…” was on East 1st Street benefiting the businesses of Nighswonger, Parker and Simonetti as well as Ivey Gurney.

“If they had recused themselves,” said Rowe in a text message, “the motion would have failed due to a lack of four votes in the affirmative.” Rowe was the only dissenting vote.

In other city council news, six people applied for a city council seat left vacant by Mike Layton. The applicants are Dave Chapelle, Tia DeMent, Paul Recanzone, Shanley Geddry, John Cooper and Maria Haskette. During the most recent regular city council meeting a vote was cast to try and choose an interim councilor. Parker, Simonetti and Nighswonger all cast their votes for Recanzone who, coincidentally happens to be the son of Ivey Gurney. No candidate was chosen however as the requisite four votes could not be reached.

It was noted by several witnesses that Parker, Simonetti and Nighswonger all appeared to be texting during the council meeting and possibly while the vote was going on. This paper has submitted a public records request for all text communications between the city councilors relating to city business and to the selection of the new interim counselor. Deleting any text messages relating to city business would be a violation of ORS 162.305.

Additionally, a special meeting was held for candidate interviews, however Shanley Geddry, a twenty-two-year-old college student, was not properly notified of the meeting and has requested proof of the notification and an interview prior to any vote.

To add even further to the drama on 1st Street previous employees of Ivey Gurney have recently filed complaints with the IRS and the State of Oregon for her alleged failure to properly file state and federal wage statements and pay payroll taxes withheld from paychecks.




Caveat Emptor

The story I am about to share could literally make for a great Sawduster’s Melodrama. Our heroine is hardworking, self-taught, newspaper layout genius, ad maker, editor, copy editor and chain-smoking girl reporter, Donell Frazier. Our dastardly villain can, depending upon who she is talking to, portray herself as a soft-voiced, demure, white-haired grandmother to gravelly Ma Barker holding a peach brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other. Her name is Jean Ivey-Gurney.

This is really one for the “You cannot make this stuff up.” files of local fiascos and calamities.

Donell Frazier has been running a newspaper in Coquille off and on for several years. Variously, she has been an employee, volunteer and most recently the owner of The Coquille Sentinel.

Last summer Jean Ivey, the owner of The Sentinel, (she changed the name to just the Sentinel after allowing the name to lapse with the Secretary of State), approached Frazier to buy the paper from her. Darlene Andrews was present when the offer was made. Frazier had learned a lot and been putting out the paper, building ads and searching for content with little or no help from Ivey for quite awhile and decided it was worth working out the details to take over.

Now, Ivey has sold the paper at least three times previously. Once to Matt Hall, owner of the Myrtle Point Herald, another to Kathleen Dimmick and again to a young couple from out of the area. In the case of Matt Hall he may not have even realized he was purchasing the paper even though Ivey added his name to the masthead for weeks. Eventually, his name disappeared and Ivey’s returned.

In the other two cases, the deals fell through and the buyers left both poorer and warier.

Frazier has never owned a business before unless you include the 20% of the newspaper Ivey gifted her for Christmas in 2017, but she was confident she could keep doing what she’d been doing and make a go of the paper. Frazier accepted Ivey’s price of $45,000 but balked when Ivey wanted her to agree to accept a debt that Ivey incurred to the printer of over $17,000. Frazier explained that she just couldn’t accept a debt just starting off. Typically, debts reduce the value of the purchase price.

Ivey was getting married to retired rancher Don Gurney at the end of the month and was eager to unload the paper. She prepared a contract without the liability to the printer and a rental agreement. Frazier would pay Ivey $600 per month for the space at 61 E First St and commencing February 1, 2020, would pay $200 per month toward the purchase price.

The commencement date was August 8, 2019 and the sale included…”all permits, contracts, legal control, all equipment necessary to produce a paper…” Frazier formed Frazier Media, LLC and reserved the assumed business name “Coquille Sentinel” to return the 100+ year old paper to its original name.

Almost immediately, Frazier began to have problems with Ivey. First, Ivey promised to add Frazier to the bank account but for weeks she missed appointments to meet at the bank all the while money generated by Frazier was being deposited into the account. Ivey even complained to Frazier that she wasn’t paying bills on time but Frazier had no access to the funds she was generating. Frazier finally opened her own account in the paper’s name while Ivey closed out the previous account, paid her step-daughter, Daniece Gurney $800 and pocketed the rest.

Nonetheless, Frazier dutifully put out a paper every week, paid her bills, the printer and paid Ivey rent each month. Now Jean Ivey-Gurney, Don Gurney, her new husband would often come by to collect the rent check on the 15th of the month.

All was well until the printer, Cascade Printing & Design out of Pocatello, Idaho finally located Ivey-Gurney at her new home and with her new name demanding payment.

Ivey-Gurney goes “ballistic”, according to Frazier and accuses her of giving the printer her contact information. Frazier denies this but Ivey-Gurney uses this to claim that Frazier is now out of compliance with the purchase contract and goes so far as to create another contract using the signatures from the original contract to add in a line “buyer to assume existing debt and income.”

Ivey-Gurney takes the doctored version of this contract to Frazier’s office. Frazier was busy working on the paper to meet a print deadline so when Ivey-Gurney leans her face right down in front of her, close enough to smell her breath, and slams down a copy of the doctored contract Frazier pushes it aside without looking.

“I’m going to take copies of this all over town and show you are a liar,” Ivey-Gurney yelled in front of both staff and customers in the office.

“Go ahead,” Frazier replied, not having read the new version. “Jean, you need to leave, I am trying to get this paper out.”

In what can only be described as a scene from America’s Dumbest Criminals, Ivey-Gurney did leave but left the “original” of the fraudulent contract in the copier to be discovered the next day. The fake is so bad it even shows the imprint of some figures Ivey-Gurney had written down on the real contract.

Meanwhile, Frazier had the locks to the office changed because, according to Frazier, Ivey-Gurney’s son, Paul Reconzone, was coming in at night without permission and using newspaper assets, making copies, etc… without payment. Ivey-Gurney was later provided with a key to the new locks but not before someone attempted to break into the office damaging the door frame.

Forensic testing of documents is pretty straight forward and easy to detect a fraud. Possibly realizing this, Ivey-Gurney now tries to pressure Frazier to sign a new contract. She sends an email to Frazier telling her to meet her at the bank and sign a new contract. Frazier asks to see the contract which is now up to $62K and change and includes additions like Ivey-Gurney retaining ownership of the periodical permit necessary to mail the papers to the subscribers. In the accompanying email, she claims that Matt Hall is willing to accept the terms of the new contract if Donell doesn’t want to sign.

Frazier refuses, telling Ivey-Gurney… “We already have a contract in place so I  will not be meeting you at the bank this morning, nor will I be signing your latest creation. I will instead be giving it to my lawyer.”

Ivey-Gurney replies “OK… here we go.”

On January 15, Frazier receives a letter from Ivey-Gurney telling her that the insurance carrier has deemed the office unsafe for commercial use and she must vacate by January 20. However, when I asked Ivey-Gurney via email why she evicted Frazier on such short notice she said, “She changed the locks on my building without notifying me or supplying me with a key, no access to the building in case of emergency.”

Frazier scrambles to be out of the building by the 20th and still puts out a paper and honors her agreements with her advertisers.

Postal receiptFrazier has been mailing out papers to her subscriber list since she took over in August. Part of the sales agreement was that the periodical permit would transfer to Frazier Medica, LLC. Receipts from the post office clearly show the permit under Frazier Media, LLC with Donell Frazier as the contact. Nonetheless, Ivey-Gurney goes to the Coquille Post Office to speak with the postmaster, Karen Kibbee and tells her that Frazier is in default of her contract. Kibbee elects to freeze all mail and will not allow Frazier Media to mail out under the existing permit, claiming the permit was never fully transferred despite the notice on the receipts.

TWO COQUILLE NEWSPAPERS?!

Ivey-Gurney has also told Karen Kibbee that she plans to publish a paper, The Sentinel, this week and will be using her old periodical permit. Frazier Media intends to publish The Coquille Sentinel this week so if nothing else, the public will have an opportunity to compare the work product of two very different editors/publishers




DA declines to retry Leah Freeman murder case

After a 2010 conviction was overturned due to an error by the Oregon State Police the Oregon Department of Justice has decided not to appeal a decision and the Coos County District Attorney will not re-try the case.

This is a developing story and more will follow




Community rights stands up to federal overreach

One of the first things an elected official does upon taking office is to swear an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately for local communities and the environment, the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states…” is an integral part of the constitution.

According to the Cornell School of Law, “Congress has often used the Commerce Clause to justify exercising legislative power over the activities of states and their citizens, leading to significant and ongoing controversy regarding the balance of power between the federal government and the states. The Commerce Clause has historically been viewed as both a grant of congressional authority and as a restriction on the regulatory authority of the States.”

Imploring Oregon Governor Kate Brown to say “NO” to Jordan Cove Energy Partners’ LNG project is literally asking her to violate her oath of office and assumes she has plenary authority to stand up to federal preemption. She does not.

Brown can do nothing more than enforce regulatory guidelines designed specifically to permit projects like Jordan Cove rather than to protect local communities from non-sustainable and environmentally damaging projects. Until we change the system sustainability will continue to be illegal in the US and some Washington bureaucrat on the other side of the continent will get to decide what is in the best interests of folks on the Oregon Coast.

Not that there haven’t been brave elected officials willing to stand up to federal overreach and to violate unjust laws in our history. If not for such intrepid souls, we may never have abolished slavery and women may still not have the right to vote. Clearly, Brown isn’t cut from the same cloth.

We can help Brown, however, by enacting local rights of nature ordinances and community bills of rights to shift the dispute away from the Commerce Clause and toward constitutional protections of fundamental human right to protect ourselves to higher standards than the environmental regulatory system allows.

To learn more visit cooscommons.org.




McGuffin conviction overturned due to Oregon State Police error

A Malheur County circuit court judge has overturned the 2011 manslaughter conviction of Nicholas McGuffin in the death of teenager Leah Freeman. After a trial for post-conviction relief last August, Sr Judge Patricia Sullivan rendered a decision last Friday finding that the Oregon State Police laboratory violated McGuffin’s constitutional rights when it failed to provide evidence of touch DNA on the victim’s shoes belonging to an unknown male.

Leah Freeman, 15, went missing on June 28, 2000 and her body was found on August 2 of that year on an embankment about eight miles from Coquille. According to the decision the initial investigation into Freeman’s disappearance was “hampered by local law enforcement.” Materials were not provided to the District Attorney until 2009 and 2010 after a new police chief, Mark Dannels, took over the Coquille Police Department.

A grand jury was convened in July 2010 and McGuffin, 18 at the time Freeman went missing, was arrested and charged on August 24. He was tried and convicted of Manslaughter 1 in July 2011 by a verdict of 10 – 2.

Janis Puracal, lawyer for the Forensic Innocence Project filed a petition on behalf of McGuffin for post-conviction relief citing 16 claims including inadequate representation by counsel. Because the unknown DNA did not provide enough markers to provide an identification at the time of the original testing Oregon State Police Crime Lab policy allowed that such trace amounts can be considered “background noise” or “clutter”. While the alleles of the unknown contributor were included with the OSP findings they were not documented in the report leaving both the defense and the prosecution with the false belief that the only DNA collected from Freeman’s shoes belonged to the victim and identified law enforcement officers who had handled the shoes.

The first Frasier heard of the unknown DNA was 2017. Due to advancements in DNA technology the crime lab would not handle the results in the same way.

Sr Judge Patricia Sullivan denied fifteen claims including a claim for actual innocence citing “…Petitioner has not shown, based on newly discovered and reliable evidence it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror could have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Sullivan did allow that the jury should have been notified of the potentially exculpatory DNA results. “While the unknown DNA could have been deposited by innocent transfer, it is also possible it was not.” Further, had the defense been aware of this DNA evidence “… the trial strategy would have been different…” potentially leading to a different outcome.

District Attorney Paul Frasier expressed his disappointment in the decision and stands by the conviction. He also noted that in the 30 plus years he has worked with the Oregon State Police “this is the first time anything like this has ever happened.”

“The judge found that the prosecution acted appropriately and there was no wrongdoing on our part”, said Fraser. “We have also completely cooperated with the Forensic Innocence Project’s request for documents and information.”

An email from Puracal says, “We believe that DNA of another man on the victim’s bloody shoe is perpetrator DNA, but that is a question of fact, and the original jury should have heard that evidence.  In post-conviction, we argued that the DNA, in combination with Mr. McGuffin’s alibi and the absence of evidence against him, proves his innocence.  The post-conviction court did not agree.  Judge Sullivan, instead, limited to relief to the constitutional claims arising out of the failure to disclose the exculpatory DNA evidence.”

The prosecution’s case was built on an abundance of circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence and physical evidence are considered equal under the law.

The Oregon Department of Justice will decide whether to appeal Judge Sullivan’s decision.

McGuffin is scheduled to be released in August of 2020.