Oregon Jailer Avoids Prosecution for Online Assault Boast; Jail Employees Lose Internet Access
by Mark Wilson
An Oregon jail guard who bragged in an online forum that he beat a prisoner and then had the prisoner charged criminally will not face charges himself, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
In 2007, David B. Thompson, a guard at Portland’s Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), made some disturbing comments in an Internet game site chat room. “I crushed a dude’s eye socket from repeatedly punching him in it, then I charged him with menacing and harassment,” Thompson wrote. “He took a plea to get away from me. He shoulda picked somebody else to try and fight.”
Thompson admitted to investigators that his comment referred to a 2005 incident in which he repeatedly hit jail prisoner David M. Baker in the head and face, which was one of Thompson’s 40 known use-of-force incidents since 2002.
Witnesses allegedly supported Thompson’s claim that Baker had initiated the attack, according to the district attorney’s “decline-to-prosecute” memo.
At the time of the incident, Baker, who had a history of assaults, said Thompson had attacked him without provocation. Regardless, he pled no contest to attempted assault on a public safety officer. During an investigation into Thompson’s online comments, Baker again claimed that Thompson had initiated the assault; however, he refused to take a polygraph test. There was no indication that Thompson was asked to submit to a polygraph.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Don Rees characterized Thompson’s online admission as nothing more than “puffing or boasting.” The comment was one of over 1,700 posts that Thompson had made on the online gaming site, City of Heroes, which he accessed from his work computer. In another post he expressed the satisfaction he received from using a Taser. “Seeing someone get Tasered is second only to pulling the trigger,” he stated. “That is money – puts a smile on your face.”
On the advice of counsel, Thompson refused to discuss his computer use with investigators, according to the prosecutor’s memo. “Here is a public servant, getting paid with public money, spending a significant amount of his shift playing video games,” observed Portland Tribune reporter Nick Budnick.
Jail supervisor Ron Bishop said an internal affairs investigation would determine whether Thompson had violated MCDC computer use restrictions or general conduct standards. Meanwhile, Thompson was restricted from Internet access at the jail and moved to a position where he had no contact with prisoners.
Thompson’s conduct raised serious questions about jail staff who spend too much time online for non-job-related reasons while neglecting their official duties. Hoping to avoid similar incidents in the future, the sheriff’s office has installed Internet filtering software to monitor and limit the websites employees can visit.
“It’s a more proactive way of doing it,” said Christine Kirk, the sheriff’s chief of staff. She said the software has already been used to alert managers to excessive Internet use by several employees in the wake of the Thompson scandal.
After it was discovered in October 2008 that three deputies had used a work computer to view pornography, the sheriff’s office instituted a policy prohibiting jail employees from going online without prior written permission. “I want people focusing on their job and not using the Internet,” remarked Sheriff Bob Skipper.
Sources: The Oregonian, www.kptv.com, Portland Tribune
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login