Oregon Governor Sued After Commuting Sentences of Hundreds of Prisoners

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
January 26, 2022Updated: January 26, 2022

Oregon’s governor has been sued for commuting the sentences of nearly 1,000 convicted felons since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has violated state law and the state’s constitution in letting the felons go free before their sentences are over, two district attorneys and four Oregon residents said in a recent filing to a circuit court in the state.

That includes not considering statements of victims in the crimes committed by the felons, they said.

“In failing to adhere to the clemency processes, the Legislature, the Secretary of State, the victims, and the rest of society know nothing of those felons’ levels of remorse, rehabilitation, or ability to re-enter our communities safely,” the suit states. “Without intervention of this Court, the laws requiring the protection of victims’ rights, securing public safety, and the proper execution of clemency power, will continue to be ignored by Governor Brown and the agencies and officials acting under her clemency orders.”

Brown last year directed the Oregon Department of Corrections to perform a case-by-case analysis of imprisoned adults and determine which ones were vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

“Given what we know about the disease and its pervasiveness in our communities, it is appropriate to release individuals who face significant health challenges should they contract COVID-19,” Brown wrote in a letter to the department.

All medically-vulnerable adults who were eligible for commutation, were deemed as not posing an “unacceptable risk to public safety,” and were determined by the agency to meet the criteria would automatically have the remainder of their sentence commuted, Brown said.

Delegating the commutation determinations to the department isn’t allowed, plaintiffs said, pointing to state law.

Nine-hundred and fifty-three felons were granted early release due to COVID-19.

Brown in September 2021 then asked the Oregon Department of Corrections to identify youth who were sentenced before Senate Bill 1008, signed into law in 2019, and “did not benefit from its changes to our juvenile justice system.” That led to Brown commuting the sentences of 73 felons convicted of crimes while minors, despite few, if any, applying for clemency.

Prosecutors, including Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteey, one of the plaintiffs, said they didn’t learn of the commutations from the governor’s office, but from news reports or other non-governmental sources.

“There was no opportunity for district attorneys to provide information to the governor nor was there any time given to notify the victims and their families,” R. Paul Frasier, district attorney for Coos County, said in a previous statement.

The list included people convicted of murder and sex crimes against children.

Some of the felons who were granted early release went on to commit crimes, including Pablo Francisco, who stole a car and triggered a high-speed chase.

Brown’s press secretary, Liz Merah, told The Epoch Times in an email that “our office generally does not comment on matters of pending litigation.”

Brown’s spokespersons have previously defended the commutations.

“On commutations during the pandemic, the majority of commutations were granted to prevent serious COVID-related illness and death among medically vulnerable adults in custody serving sentences for nonviolent offenses,” one told the Albany Democrat-Herald. “As COVID-19 spread in jails and prisons across the country, Gov. Brown and many other governors took action to prevent further loss of life.”

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