SEASIDE, OR (KOIN) – An Oregon man accused of sexual assault and sodomy was able to plead to a lesser offense because the lead investigator on his case was killed in the line of duty.
The change is the latest in a string of legal repercussions following the death Sgt. Jason Goodding. Goodding was shot and killed in the line of duty in February.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown says if someone is unavailable to appear in court their testimony and reports become hearsay, which cannot be used in court. In the sodomy case, Goodding’s death renders most of the investigation unusable.
The case against Ronald Flores, accused of raping a 5th-grade girl fell short.
“He was allowed to plea to something much less than we wanted him to or the victim wanted him to,” Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis told KOIN 6 News.
Flores agreed on a plea for a Class A misdemeanor, the equivalent of sexual assault. Instead of a 6 to 9 year prison sentence, Flores will get a much lighter sentence.
“Because (Goodding) was the only officer that took the statements from the defendant, there was not another officer there, he is not available as a witness, under Oregon and constitutional law, which grants defendants the absolute right to confront their accusers directly,” Marquis tells KOIN 6 News.
Brown says his office has been working to successfully prosecute cases where Goodding was the lead or only detective despite the challenges his death presents.
Marquis says so far, only a few of Goodding’s cases have had to be dropped.
“It’s a particularly tragic way to lose…a witness. But the result is the same, the witness is not available so you have to decide, do you just walk away and we had to in a couple of his cases,” says Marquis.
A victim reacts
Ronald Flores’ victim says the sexual assault first happened when she was 11. Traumatized, she told a caseworker years later at age 15, and then Sgt. Goodding took over the investigation.
“I felt like, you know, finally there is going to be people who think that this matters and that what happened to me mattered.”
Her mom says Goodding was like a champion for her daughter.
“Held her hand through every court hearing,” she tells KOIN 6 News. “He attended every one with her, but that was all inadmissible.”
She wishes the state would consider changes.
“Once the report is filed, as long as it’s documented, even if an accident like this happens, if an arresting officer is harmed, or is ill, somebody still should be able to step in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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