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Anyone following Damascus politics is probably not surprised that the race for mayor has taken a nasty turn. Candidate Steve Spinnett, who has a long history of community and political activism, says political mailings, one of them anonymous, have made wild accusations about him.
He brought several documents to PolitiFact Oregon, and one in particular caught our eye.
A mailer from Livable Damascus stated that Spinnett had previous judgments against him for trespass and harassment. "In Mr Spinnett’s deposition," the mailer said, "he stated that he had two previous judgments against him," for trespass and harassment.
Trespass? Harassment? That sounds serious. PolitiFact Oregon decided to check it out.
First we asked representatives of Livable Damascus for the facts to back up their claims. Randy Russell, who signed the mailer, provided court documents from a 1993 civil dispute he and his wife, Kathy, had with Spinnett over trees removed from the Russell property.
The documents refer to a deposition in which Spinnett purportedly acknowledged judgments against him, but Russell couldn’t produce the actual deposition. Kathy Russell said they lost their copy in a flood.
A check of public records showed nothing involving Spinnett and harassment. So we’re left with no proof of that claim.
Next, we turned to Washington County court records, which show there were indeed two entries, both involving trespassing, against Spinnett.
Spinnett explained that the charges came from a peaceful anti-abortion demonstration in Forest Grove back in 1989, through his association with a group called Advocates for Life.
Spinnett was charged with two counts of criminal trespassing in connection with the protest. He was convicted of one in January 1990 and spent two days in jail. The other case was dismissed.
Spinnett was involved in a high-profile anti-abortion case from the past. Advocates for Life and about 30 people including Spinnett were sued by Lovejoy Surgicenter of Portland for blocking doors and preventing patients from entering buildings. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear an appeal of the $8.2 million damage award Lovejoy won against the protesters. The Oregonian’s coverage of that case notes Spinnett was among the protesters fined $1 for nuisance and $1 for trespassing, in addition to larger awards for the overall judgment.
Remember though, the document released from Livable Damascus claims Spinnett had judgments against him for both trespassing and harassment.
We have one true claim (trespassing) and one claim for which no proof has been offered, which we rate therefore as false (harassment.) When those two are added together, what does the Truth-O-Meter say? Half True.
E-mail from Steve Spinnett with a document attached alleging harassment and trespassing, Oct. 25, 2010
Interviews with Steve Spinnett, October 25-29, 2010
Interview with Keith Marshall, spokesman for Livable Damascus, Oct. 26, 2010
Interview with Randy Russell, Oct. 27, 2010
Brief interview with Kathy Russell, Oct. 27, 2010
Documents from civil court case between the Russell family and Steve Spinnett provided in person by Kathy Russell, Oct. 28, 2010
The Oregonian, archived story, Feb. 12, 1991
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