Pamplin Media Group – Judge called Teets’ 2020 behavior “disturbing” at trial

The former Forest Grove police officer was found guilty of criminal mischief but not disorderly conduct.

The chief judge who sentenced Steven Teets on Thursday July 21, refrained from giving him a prison sentence but called the behavior of the former Forest Grove police officer “disturbing”.

Gary Williams was brought in to preside over the trial after Teets’ attorney successfully argued for two Washington County Circuit Court judges to be disqualified.

Williams, who rose to senior status in 2017 after serving on the Crook County Circuit Court, both ruled on Teets’ guilt and sentenced him on Thursday after what’s called a bench trial, in which the judge, rather than a constituted jury, determines the verdict.

Teets and his attorney, Derek Ashton of Portland-based law firm Sussman and Shank, voluntarily waived Teets’ right to a jury trial.

After convicting Teets of one of two charges against him, Williams sentenced the former Forest Grove Police Department officer to two years probation and 80 hours of community service.

Prosecutors attempted to argue that Teets should be convicted of disorderly conduct as well as criminal mischief, but Williams only found him guilty of the latter offense, a misdemeanor.

The Incident

Teets has been charged for his role in an October 31, 2020, early morning altercation outside a Forest Grove home.

According to prosecutors and resident Mirella Castaneda, who testified as a witness at trial, Teets broke into the house, setting off car alarms and banging on a “Black Lives Matter” flag that hung above the garage. He then climbed onto the porch, damaged the Halloween decor, and banged on the front door, screaming.

Teets only left after residents told him they were calling 9-1-1, witnesses said. Castaneda testified that her husband lied and told Teets he had a gun to try to get him to leave.

At the time of the incident, Teets was off duty and apparently intoxicated. Castaneda testified that she did not know the man outside her door was a police officer, and even when officers arrived responding to her 9-1-1 call, they did not identify him as a police officer. .

One of the responding officers, Brad Schuetz, drove Teets home instead of arresting him. Teets was arrested later that afternoon by Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies.

Schuetz and another officer were fired, and Schuetz was charged with official misconduct. It was acquitted last week in a separate trial in Hillsboro.

Williams, explaining his decision to convict Teets of criminal mischief, said he believed Teets was trying to enter the house that night.

“It’s disturbing because you basically terrorized multiple people inside that residence,” Williams told Teets. “And doing damage, interfering with a car that sets off a few alarms is one thing. Kicking a light is one thing. But I find, without a doubt reasonable, that you tried to enter their house. ”

Of Teets’ behavior, Williams added: “It’s just over the edge. It’s scary. It’s disturbing. And that’s what worries me the most – it’s the extent to which you were ready to go in your drunk. (It was) just very disturbing.”

Williams found no reason to convict Teets on the second count of disorderly conduct, although he admitted he was unfamiliar with Forest Grove or the neighborhood in question.

“I don’t know Forest Grove. I’ve never been to Forest Grove in my life. I don’t know anything about this neighborhood,” Williams said. “The only evidence at trial was that there were two residences on the blocks where the victims’ residence is. That’s the evidence. It could have been in a neighborhood. It could have been in a densely populated neighborhood. It could have been in an area where there are only two houses 5 miles away I have no idea there was no evidence for this so count two failures due to lack of evidence presented on public impact.

Williams ordered Teets to be evaluated for alcohol and anger management issues to determine if further counseling was needed. Williams also ordered Teets to avoid contact with Castaneda.

Castaneda sued Teets over the incident, alleging intrusion and invasion of privacy. That civil case was settled late last year, with Teets agreeing to give up his police certificate as part of the settlement.

Learn more about the story

Andrew Freeman, assistant district attorney in the Washington County Attorney’s Office, prosecuted the case. He argued that Teets should be held to a particularly high standard as a police officer.

“The defendant has made the choice to work and live in a small community, and in doing so should be held to a higher standard because of the public trust, authority and responsibility afforded to him. conferred,” Freeman said during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Freeman added that Teets “chose to commit a crime within this community against a family in this community who (are) essentially his neighbors, just a few blocks away from him.”

The damages weren’t just financial, Freeman said.

“He caused fear, anxiety and trauma for an entire family,” Freeman said. “He undermined and damaged the faith and credibility of his work and of the department and the structures and institutions to which he was linked.”

Weeks before the October 31, 2020 incident, Teets was one of four Forest Grove police officers who responded to a call involving a man carrying a flagpole and damaging a local church in the middle of the night.

According to records obtained by Pamplin Media Group last year, Teets used a Taser to incapacitate the suspect. The man, James Marshall, suffered a cardiac arrest and later died in hospital. An autopsy concluded he had used amphetamines and died of “excited delirium”, a controversial term often used to describe cases in which people die in police custody.

Teets appeared to be referring to the fatal encounter in early October 2020 when he spoke on his own behalf at sentencing.

“Unfortunately, I have no memory of that night (October 31, 2020). I don’t know what happened. I can’t talk about it. I can tell you that the events that have been portrayed are extremely out of -de- fits my character,” Teets said at sentencing. “Mr. Freeman is aware of the incident, which led to this incident, which I was trying to deal with. I chose alcohol to deal with it. I don’t have anger issues. I I don’t have alcohol problems. In response to that, I chose to drink – it was not a wise choice – and that led to this event.”

Teets also said he spent about 10 years in the US military before becoming a police officer.

The DA’s office reviewed the use of force case that led to Marshall’s death and concluded that there was no foul play on the part of Teets and the other officers involved.

Last year, Forest Grove Police Chief Henry Reimann told Pamplin Media Group he was unsure if any of the four officers had accepted the department’s offer of counsel following Marshall’s death. .

Teets was fired from the Forest Grove Police Department late last year after spending more than a year on administrative leave following the October 31, 2020 altercation.

Ashton said after the trial, Teets was unsure if he would appeal the guilty verdict.

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About Jessica J. Bass

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