“I have a big ego,” admitted longtime Oregon parole board psychologist Frank P. Colistro, Ed.D. “I embellish my life.” Asked if this hurts his credibility, Colistro hesitated for a long, painful silence before answering “No.” His employers and many others disagree.
If his Curriculum Vitae (CV) is to be believed, Colistro has been in private practice since 1981. He has worked as a “Psychological Consultant” and “Chief of Forensic Psychology” for the Oregon Department of Corrections from 1978 to 1986, and 1989 to the present. Before obtaining his Doctorate in 1977, Colistro also worked for the Canadian Penitentiary Service from 1973 to 1976. He is a longtime prosecutorial expert witness on issues of current and future dangerousness of sex offenders and other violent offenders.
Since 1995, Colistro has been one of five psychologists under contract with the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision (Board) to conduct prisoner psychological evaluations.
Oregon prisoners have a liberty interest in the release dates that the Board sets for them. See: Stogsdill v. Board of Parole, 342 Or 332,154 P3d 91 (2007). “Postponing a scheduled release date results in a substantial deprivation of liberty,” Stogsdill held.
The Board lacks authority to postpone a release date unless it finds that the prisoner suffers from a present severe emotional disturbance that renders him a danger to the community.
The Board bears the burden of proof on that issue and a psychological diagnosis is a prerequisite to parole postponement. As a result, the Board compels prisoners to submit to psychological evaluations by Colistro and its other Board-contract psychologists.
The Board does not call those doctors to testify simply “because this is a hearing not a trial.” It also prohibits prisoners from calling the Board’s doctors as witnesses or cross- examining them about the content of their reports. The Board’s decision hinges upon the unsworn hearsay psychological evaluation reports of its Board-contract psychologists.
Prosecutors call those reports “the lynch-pin of the Board’s decision.”
In addition to his prison and parole work, since 2002, Colistro has called himself a “Contract Criminal Profiler,” to the “Portland Police Bureau Detectives Division and other local law enforcement agencies.” He also identifies himself as a “Consulting Psychologist” to the “Cold Case Unit” of the Portland Police Bureau.
Others in criminal defense circles have much less flattering titles for Colistro, like “Media Whore,” given his seemingly nightly presence on the local news. Of course, reporters love Colistro’s “big ego,” because he does not hesitate to offer his “expert” opinions about local and national headline-grabbing tragedies, despite having no personal knowledge of the facts of those cases.
Though we now know that “facts” aren’t terribly important to Colistro. In April 2014, a reporter for Portland’s KOIN-6 television news interviewed Colistro about the psychological profile of a soldier who went on a deadly shooting spree at the Fort Hood, Texas, Army base.
During that interview, reporter Dan Tilkin asked Colistro to repeat a story he once shared off-camera about being shot. “Which time?” asked Colistro, claiming that he’d been shot twice while trying to talk armed men out of their Portland homes, as a member of hostage negotiation teams.
“Got the cellphone shot out of my hand. That hurt. Now, I still have to buy large and extra-large pairs of gloves because it never totally healed right,” said Colistro. “Shot in the butt. Yeah, it’s kind of an occupational hazard.”
When asked how long it took the butt shot to heal, Colistro’s “big ego,” doubled down. “I’ve been lucky,” Colistro said. “In fact the butt one was an AK, so it was a steel-penetrating bullet. You know if you’re gonna get shot, that’s what you want to get shot with, because they don’t even slow down. If they don’t hit anything vital, just in and out. Boom. And it cauterized the wound. I didn’t even have to go to the hospital, I went home.”
Smelling something fishy, Tilkin did what reporters do. He dug deeper. Law enforcement officials confirmed his suspicion that getting shot by an AK-47 would certainly require a trip to the hospital.
“A search of our files cannot confirm this case,” the Oregon State Police reported. Portland police and lawyers also noted that they surely would have heard if Colistro had been shot during a police standoff. Of course, nobody could recall a single incident, much less two shootings. Interestingly, Colistro painstakingly details 26 “Professional Activities,” spanning from 1973 to the present in his 10-page CV. Yet, he does not include a single reference to being a hostage negotiator for any police agency, ever. One would think his “big ego” would not overlook such an important “professional activity,” if it were actually true.
When Tilkin could not confirm Colistro’s outlandish story, he returned to the source on July 14, 2014. Sensing trouble, Colistro said he didn’t want to revisit the shootings because they happened “long ago and far away.” When pressed, however, Colistro caved.
“I guess I have a big ego,” Colistro said. “I guess when I’m off the air, when I’m casual, I embellish my life.” His defense? This was mere “story-telling” that was not intended “for a wide audience.”
Reminding Colistro that he had shared the story twice before, two years apart, Tilkin asked if he shared it with many people. “Again, not on the record,” said Colistro. “When we’re casually talking, could be.”
Therein lays Colistro’s justification for why such a lie does not hurt his credibility. “Again, I’m differentiating between what we’re doing right now (on camera), which is a formal thing,” said Colistro. “I’m speaking to you as a professional, a licensed professional, versus are the three of us going to go out for lunch afterwards. It’s a different context.” We’re betting Colistro does not share such an understanding view of lying, when offered by a prisoner he is charged with evaluating.
Colistro claimed that he’s never shared his fake shooting story in a professional setting, such as a conference, or lied under oath. Yet, Multnomah County officials now suggest that even Colistro’s “formal vs. informal” defense was a lie.
Multnomah County prosecutors now refuse to call Colistro as an expert witness in any of the County’s criminal cases, ending a twenty years relationship with the doctor, because he lied to county officials in 2011 when he claimed to have never been professionally disciplined, according to Andrea Coghlan, Spokeswoman for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice.
“When he tried to reapply as an approved sex offender treatment provider, he falsified some information on his renewal application,” said Coghlan. “He didn’t disclose the fact that he was sanctioned by the Board of Psychologist Examiners in 2010.” Seems pretty “formal” to us.
In fact, Colistro was fined $5,000 and placed on a two year supervision plan for professional misconduct, including divulging confidential patient information to an attorney in a civil lawsuit.
Despite his 2011 lie that is only now becoming public, Multnomah County prosecutors continued to call Colistro as their expert witness until October 2013, due to a lack of qualified psychologists willing to say what prosecutors want juries to hear.
“I would diagnose myself as an average guy who does what average guys do,” said Colistro when Tilkin asked if he would diagnose himself with a character disorder. “I’m not saying it’s necessarily OK, but it is human nature.”
The more important question is how Colistro would diagnose a prisoner who was caught repeatedly “embellishing his life.” We could not locate the “average guy” diagnosis Colistro cited to. However, we did find his favorite prisoner diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed 2013)(DSM-5).
“Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD), includes “diagnostic criteria” of “deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying,... or conning others for personal profit or pleasure,” according to the DSM-5. “Deceit and manipulation are central features,” and people with APD “may repeatedly lie,” “con others,” “provide a superficial rationalization for” their behavior and “minimize the harmful consequences of their actions.”
People with APD “may have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal,” notes DSM-5. They “may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky.” The “inflated self-appraisal and superficial charm are features that have been commonly included in traditional conceptions of psychopathy.”
Given that APD “has a chronic course but may become less evident or remit as the individual grows older, particularly by the fourth decade of life,” it seems only fair to ask just how much the 64-year old Colistro “embellished his life” - and the lives of those he evaluated - as a younger man. The defense bar will certainly make those inquiries, if prosecutors ever call Colistro as an expert witness again.
Oregon parole officials initially reserved comment. “We will have to review the information and do some investigation on our own,” said Brenda Carney, the Board’s Executive Director. “I can’t give you any indication what we would do at this point.” Just seven days after the story broke, however, the Board sent Colistro a 30-day notice of termination on July 21, 2014.
Carney said the Board’s quick decision to terminate Colistro’s contract, effective August 25,2014, was based upon both his false shooting claim and the 2011 falsification of his contract renewal application. Colistro wisely declined to comment, saying he needs time to think about whether he should say anything more.
Source: KOIN.com; the Oregonian
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