An Oregon man accused of sexual assault and sodomy against an 11-year-old girl instead pled guilty to a lesser charge and received a lighter sentence today, after the lead investigator in the case, Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding, was shot and killed, according to a report from WNCN.
Due to Goodding’s death, he was unable to appear in court — and according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown, whatever the reason, when someone cannot appear in court, their testimony and reports become hearsay, which generally cannot be used in U.S. courts due to the Sixth Amendment. And while there are exceptions to the rule, police reports are not among them.
Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis said that the case fell short due to the loss of Goodding’s testimony, and accused Ronald Flores was able to plead guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The original charges would have seen him serving a six- to nine-year prison sentence; the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor is up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.
“He was allowed to plea to something much less than we wanted him to or the victim wanted him to.
“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.”
A Community Mourns
According to KOIN, Sgt. Goodding, 39, was shot and killed in the line of duty in February while serving a warrant on a known felon together with another officer in downtown Seaside. The suspect, 55-year-old Phillip Ferry, resisted arrest and shot Sgt. Goodding. Goodding’s partner returned fire, hitting Ferry multiple times; Ferry and Goodding were then rushed to the hospital where they both died from their injuries.
Body cameras were rolling during the incident, and Marquis felt that the felon’s shooting was fully justified.
DA Brown said that his office has been working since to prosecute cases where Goodding was the only investigating officer. According to Marquis, only “a couple of his cases” 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.
“The officers were doing their job, they’re patrolling downtown, they see this guy and know he has a significant warrant out for him, they approach him which is their job.
“It’s been 10 or 12 years since we’ve had an officer-involved shooting, and much longer than that since an officer was shot.”
Ferry was not unfamiliar to the police; he’d been booked into the Clatsop County Jail 41 times in the past.
Goodding was well-known in Seaside; he was strongly involved with the community and well-liked, coaching many local sports teams. A memorial service and a vigil are being held in his honor.
A Rapist Goes Practically Unpunished
The case of Ronald Flores actually begins several years ago. According to his victim, he raped her when she was 11-years-old; she came forward about the assault to a caseworker four years later, at age 15, and Sgt. Goodding took over the investigation. According to the girl’s mother, Goodding became her champion, attending every hearing with her, “but that was all inadmissible.” She expressed hope that the state would consider making changes to the law.
“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.”
[Photo via Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office handout]