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Oregon Jailer Facing Sex Charges Improperly Denied Insanity Defense

The Oregon Court of Appeals held that a female jail employee who repeatedly let a prisoner out of his cell to have sex with him should have been allowed to present an insanity defense at trial.

As previously reported in PLN, the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro, Oregon was rocked by a sex scandal involving two female jail employees who repeatedly let a sex offender out of his cell to engage in sex. Although the women worked together in the same unit, they had no idea they were both having sex with the same prisoner, according to Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bob Ray. [See: PLN, Feb. 2017, p.42; July 2016, p.63; May 2015, p.63; April 2015, p.63].

One of those women was civilian services employee Brett Lindsey Robinson, who had worked at the jail for just over a year when she was placed on administrative leave on July 30, 2014.

A grand jury indicted Robinson on six counts of first-degree sexual misconduct and six counts of first-degree official misconduct. She was booked into the jail on August 19, 2014, and pleaded not guilty to the charges at her arraignment 10 days later.

“They didn’t cross the line,” said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett. “They torched it.” Robinson worked in the jail’s control center and let reported gang member and convicted sex offender Jeng-Li Delgado-Galban out of his cell six times, opening four secure doors and allowing him into the control room, where they had sex.

A trial was originally scheduled for January 2015, but continued until April 28, 2015 because Robinson’s attorney, Paul Hood, needed more time to conduct his investigation and a psychological evaluation report was not yet complete.

At the end of March 2015, Hood contacted Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lesowski to let him know the evaluator still had not completed his report and there was a possibility that Robinson would be raising an insanity defense.

Twenty days before trial, the psychological evaluator finally completed his report on April 8, 2015. The next day, Hood filed a notice pursuant to ORS 161.309 of intent to present evidence of insanity under ORS 161.295.

Lesowski moved to prohibit the insanity defense, arguing that Robinson did not demonstrate just cause for waiting until shortly before trial to file notice under ORS 161.309. Washington County Circuit Court Judge Rick Knapp agreed and precluded Robinson’s insanity defense, holding, “if a defendant does not file written notice of intent to present an insanity defense at the time the defendant enters her plea, then ORS 161.309 requires the defendant to demonstrate a ‘good reason’ for filing the notice at whatever time the defendant does file the notice.”

Hood then filed an emergency petition for a writ of mandamus with the Oregon Supreme Court, which was denied on April 27, 2015.

Robinson rejected a 36-month plea offer and proceeded to trial. Just before the trial began, however, Knapp excluded expert testimony from a defense psychologist that established Robinson had a long history of mental health issues and her actions were not voluntary because she was delusional. If true, of course, one must then wonder how she managed to be hired by the Sheriff’s Office to work at the jail.

“If I kill myself, the blood is on your hands,” Robinson warned Lesowski as she walked past him on the way out of the courtroom for a lunch break. When she returned, Judge Knapp had Robinson taken into custody, citing her comment and documented mental health issues.

The judge then asked if the attorneys were ready to proceed with opening statements. Hood said he had a matter for the court and the attorneys and judge went into chambers for 15 minutes, as Robinson sat sobbing alone at the defense table.

She subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges and received a three-year prison sentence, but preserved her right to appeal.

In a lengthy ruling, the appellate court held on October 11, 2017 that Robinson had raised a valid claim with respect to the denial of her insanity defense, concluding that “a criminal defendant who shows just cause for not filing a notice of intent to present an insanity defense at the time of plea is entitled to file the notice ‘at any time’ before trial.”

Further, the Court of Appeals noted, “If a defendant’s particular timing does not give the state adequate time to prepare to meet the defense, then the proper course is to continue the trial to permit the state more time to prepare, not to preclude the defendant from presenting the defense.” The case was remanded for further proceedings. See: State v. Robinson, 288 Ore.App. 194, 406 P.3d 200 (Ore. Ct. App. 2017). 

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Related legal case

State v. Robinson