Oregon sheriff indicted in excessive force investigation

AP News
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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 7:10 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A grand jury on Friday indicted Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah on nine misdemeanor charges related to allegations that he used excessive force.

Skrah is accused of holding a flashlight against a man's throat and putting pressure with his hands on the throat of another man, according to the indictment. He's also accused of "striking" a third person.

The indictment includes misdemeanor charges of harassment, official misconduct, strangulation, assault and attempted assault. It doesn't say how Skrah came into contact with the three men, but the three charges of official misconduct suggest it was in the course of his official duties.

As a condition of his release, he's not allowed to patrol, participate in traffic stops or have contact with inmates or suspects.

Skrah did not enter a plea at his arraignment. Reached on his cell phone afterward, he declined to comment on the advice of his lawyer.

At a news conference Thursday, the sheriff said he hasn't caused harm to anyone while on duty.

"Yes, I have suggested to drug dealers, child molesters, gun runners and criminals of all kinds that Klamath County is not a safe place for their nefarious enterprises," Skrah said, according to The Herald and News. "And I make no apologies for that."

The charges against Skrah stem from three incidents — in February 2013, January 2014 and February 2015.

The Oregon Department of Justice said it began investigating Skrah in April.

"All law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Skrah, are sworn to uphold the law in Oregon," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. "The grand jury has determined there is a basis to bring charges based on his actions, including the use of excessive force and the failure to perform required duties."

The investigation into Skrah became public when seven deputies who were granted paid leave said Skrah retaliated against them after they were interviewed by investigators. The sheriff has disputed those claims and the deputies returned to work Saturday after the county and the union reached a settlement.

County commissioners have said the sheriff should take paid administrative leave, but he's rejected the suggestion. Because the sheriff is an elected official, the county can't discipline him.