District Attorney Declines to Charge Portland Police Officer Accused by Portland Journalist of Assault at Protest
Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue a Portland police officer for using violence against Portland journalist Donovan Farley during a protest in June 2020, WW learned.
The prosecutor’s declination memo, obtained from WW and first reported by the Portland Tribune, states that the Portland Police Bureau was conducting an investigation into the incident in which officer Cameron Smith allegedly hit and hit Farley at the request of former District Attorney Rod Underhill Sprayed pepper spray.
Last summer, Farley penned a first-person report on the incident on WW, in which he said he was sprayed with pepper spray while filming an arrest. The video from the June 6 incident shows an officer hitting Farley twice with a baton and spraying pepper spray on his face.
The decision not to prosecute Smith came when the district attorney’s office considered several incidents of protests to be brought before the grand juries for possible indictment. Prosecutors have filed charges against one officer, referred a second case to the Oregon Department of Justice, and are investigating several other cases.
In their October 2020 final minutes, prosecutors described Farley’s written account of the incident as “demonstrably inaccurate” compared to a video filmed by a PPB criminal named Jason Mills. The memo says Mills’ footage showed Farley standing a few feet from Smith, wearing riot gear.
“Mr. Farley seems to be challenging Officer Smith into a fight,” the closing note reads. “Officer Smith hits Mr. Farley in the leg with his baton, and Mr. Farley says, ‘Take the shit off, motherfucker! Take the shit off ! ‘”
The memo goes on to say that Smith then sprayed Farley with pepper spray, causing Farley to turn and walk away. It is further alleged that PPB determined that Smith’s use of force was necessary because the officer “was trying to arrest Mr. Farley who had just tried to beat him”.
According to the memo, PPB Detective Christopher Traynor tried to track down Farley to discuss the incident, but he couldn’t find a working phone number to reach the journalist. The memo states that the detective found Farley’s address and sent him a “certified letter” asking Farley to discuss the incident, but Farley didn’t respond.
“Detective Traynor knows that Mr. Farley is aware of his attempted contact because Mr. Farley posted comments on social media indicating that he knew the police tried to contact him,” the memo reads. “So far, Mr. Farley has not responded to Detective Traynor and there is nothing to indicate that he has contacted law enforcement regarding the incident. Because of the inconsistency between Mr. Farley’s written account of what happened and the video recordings available for review, the state cannot conclude that a crime has been committed. “
The Portland Tribune reported that Farley plans to file a lawsuit over the incident. “It is completely and clearly wrong that I would try to fight a police officer,” he told the tribune. “The guy gave up his duty and tried to stop me from doing my job.”
Update, 3:45 p.m. Sunday, July 11th:
In a statement to WW, Farley’s attorney Jane Moisan said prosecutors disparaged his report without explaining what was wrong with it.
“It is seldom that someone can retell an event in which they felt their physical security was threatened in the smallest detail,” says Moisan. “People seldom quote themselves or others from memory with absolute accuracy. There may be inaccuracies in Mr. Farley’s statement. He wrote it in the middle of the night, just hours after the incident, while in great pain – the spray was so bad it looked like he had been hit on the head.
“But what parts of his statement turned out to be inaccurate? The site? The time? The exact sequence of movements? The exact distance from which it was sprayed? We do not receive this information from this memo. The video shows very clearly that Officer Smith used force when Mr. Farley was not threatening anyone, ”says Moisan.
Moisan and Farley say that Smith, the policeman, targeted him not because Farley challenged the policeman to a fight, but rather because he filmed four other policemen holding an arrested person in a “lengthy stranglehold,” and in the same way kneeled like she had killed George Floyd. “
Farley and his attorney argue that prosecutors only investigated Smith’s initial use of force against Farley and omitted Smith following Farley down the street and spraying him twice with pepper.
“The memo does not specifically rate the troops deployed, as Officer Smith has decided not to let Mr. Farley out of the area and instead track him down and reduce the distance between them not just once but twice,” writes Moisan. “When Officer Smith pursued Mr. Farley when Mr. Farley withdrew, it appears from the video that it has in no way attempted to make an arrest in any universe. The violence was used to prove that no arrest should be made. “
Farley and his attorney say his account is backed by a video from KATU-TV showing Smith chasing and peppering them. They asked the Multnomah County Attorney’s Office to produce any video that contradicted Farley’s account.
“When the public is reviewing details of why the prosecution refused to prosecute a law enforcement officer,” Moisan concludes, “it is important to understand that a district attorney relies on the prosecution to prosecute his cases and has a very specific relationship with law enforcement has law enforcement. “