Wasco Co DA to review years’ worth of cases after officer’s credibility called into question

Statement from Wasco Co DA Matthew Ellis

(THE DALLES, Ore.) – The Wasco County District Attorney’s Office is conducting an investigation into a City of The Dalles police officer and is initiating a significant case review after a 2011 letter, recently discovered, questions the officer’s credibility as a truthful witness. 

On January 11, 2021, newly inaugurated District Attorney Matthew Ellis discovered a “Notice of Discipline” directed at a City of The Dalles police officer, dated February 17, 2011. The notice, signed by former Police Chief Jay Waterbury, stated the officer was demoted because he had violated the City Police Policy for Truthfulness. This notice, which was found buried in former Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley’s desk, is clear discoverable evidence for any case investigated by the officer under Brady v. Maryland.

Prosecutors have a constitutional and statutory duty to disclose exculpatory information, including potential impeachment information to defense attorneys. Certain information in the possession of a district attorney’s office regarding the credibility of a state’s witness, such as a police officer, is discoverable under the Brady rule.  The scope of the investigation will inquire into why the 2011 letter regarding the officer was not included in the former District Attorney’s disclosure index.

Current City of The Dalles Police Chief Pat Ashmore has been supportive of this investigation.  The decisions made in 2011 do not reflect the current standards and practices of The Dalles City Police.  From all observations, Chief Ashmore has worked tirelessly to guarantee his department operates with accountability and transparency in ensuring public trust.  The impact of a 2011 event and the actions or inactions of prior administrations should not reflect on the ethical individuals currently working in both the City Police and in the District Attorney’s Office. 

The District Attorney’s office has been informed that the officer was placed on administrative leave from the City of The Dalles on January 17, 2021. The District Attorney’s office is currently reviewing any open matter where the officer was an essential witness and will file motions for dismissals in Wasco County Circuit Court. The county, city, district attorney’s office, and city police have started a joint effort to conduct a ten-year review on any and all cases involving the officer for conviction integrity.

District Attorney Ellis says the investigation and the simultaneous case review will be the start of ensuring a fairer, more transparent, and more just criminal justice system in Wasco County.

District Attorney Ellis recognizes Chief Ashmore, the City of The Dalles Police Department, City of The Dalles, and Wasco County for their immediate response to this situation.

No additional information is available for release at this time.