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Sexual Misconduct Topples Two Oregon Prosecutors

The elected District Attorney of a small Oregon county lost his job after being accused of using his office for sexual misconduct and then trying to cover it up.

In August 2010, a female employee of the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office, Dawn Wilson, accused DA Dean Gushwa of physically, sexually and emotionally abusing her both on- and off-duty between December 2008 and April 2010.

Gushwa denied the claim but took a leave of absence soon after the allegations became public. While he was on leave, the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) managed the DA’s office. However, Gushwa still continued to draw his $7,363 monthly salary and $2,205 in monthly insurance and retirement benefits during his absence.

On November 10, 2010, Gushwa was charged with five Class A misdemeanor counts of official misconduct related to the sexual abuse allegations.

The next day Gushwa told a reporter he was innocent of wrongdoing, pointing out that the charges had not been reviewed by a grand jury. Rather, they were just the opinion “of someone sitting in an office somewhere in Salem.”

Gushwa pleaded not guilty on November 23, 2010 and asked the court to allow him to return to work as a prosecutor. The DOJ objected, but a judge granted him limited access to his office. Ten counts of contempt of court were later added after Gushwa was accused of violating a court order not to have contact with former employees.

Gushwa eventually acknowledged having sexual relationships with three employees in the DA’s office, which he termed “stupid” but consensual. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of official misconduct related to using his government job to obtain an unauthorized $6.00 discount on a hotel room, and was sentenced to three years probation. He resigned on May 11, 2011.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries dismissed a complaint filed by Wilson against Gushwa, finding that their sexual relationship was consensual and she only complained after she learned Gushwa was having a relationship with another female employee.

Regardless, Wilson filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against Gushwa, Umatilla County and state officials in August 2011, claiming that Gushwa had sexually harassed and assaulted her and threatened to have her fired if she told anyone. See: Wilson v. County of Umatilla, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 3:11-cv-01061-PK.

Gushwa isn’t the only Oregon prosecutor to face prosecution for sexual misconduct. In November 2009, Sheila L. Snyder filed a sexual harassment complaint against Lincoln County Deputy DA Rand E. Overton, 59.

Overton was attempting to collect child support from Snyder, who alleged that he asked her to come see him while “not wearing my underwear.” District Attorney Rob Bovett placed Overton on administrative leave the same day, and Overton later attempted suicide by taking an overdose of Xanax.

Overton admitted to the Oregon State Bar that he made inappropriate comments to Snyder during a telephone conversation after she wore a “rather revealing dress” to court, and said there was no excuse for his “vulgar” remarks.

He was charged with four counts of official misconduct and two counts of attempted coercion. On December 14, 2010, the DOJ announced that Overton had pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree official misconduct. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years probation, and is reportedly facing a bar complaint. He cannot work as a government attorney while on probation.

Snyder filed a civil rights suit against Overton and various state and county defendants in May 2011. See: Snyder v. State of Oregon, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 3:11-cv-00623-MO. The following month Overton was sued by another woman, Kim Brethauer, who accused him of sexual harassment. According to Brethauer’s complaint, “On two occasions, Overton sent via Lincoln County email a picture of his penis that he had taken at his desk in his office chair” to Brethauer, and asked her to send him explicit photos in return. She is seeking unspecified damages. See: Brethauer v. Lincoln County, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 6:11-cv-06233-SI.

Sources: Associated Press, The Oregonian,

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Related legal cases

Wilson v. County of Umatilla

Snyder v. State of Oregon

Brethauer v. Lincoln County