The case of Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare's 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which he reported stolen from downtown Grants Pass on May 10, may be coming to a close — unless Josephine County District Attorney Stephen Campbell has other ideas.
The case has been batted back to Campbell following a letter to Campbell on Thursday from the Department of Justice stating that the division "will take no further action in this matter."
Campbell had asked the DOJ to investigate whether Hare filed a false police report. That was after the incident was investigated by Grants Pass police and Medford police.
It's unclear whether Campbell will pursue further action. The Daily Courier left Campbell a message. However, his office said he would be away until Monday.
Grants Pass police conducted the initial investigation, then handed the case over to Medford police in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest in a case involving a local public official.
Medford police completed their investigation last month, and the findings of both departments were sent to Campbell. But the Josephine County district attorney said that, because the commissioners oversee his department's budget, he felt he "could not make that decision," so he asked the DOJ to intervene.
The Daily Courier previously reported that, according to police dispatch records at the time, Hare told Grants Pass police he parked the locked vehicle in the 200 block of Southwest G Street near Don's Bike Center. He said he had only one set of keys, the gas tank was half full and he was current on payments.
Police examined bike shop surveillance tapes. Don Hendricks, owner of the bike shop, said at the time that police "were able to capture some images, but I don't know what they are."
Also, police dispatch records state that a woman told police that, sometime after 1 a.m. on May 10, a man "showed up" and parked a black Jeep near her residence in the 1600 block of Hamilton Lane. She saw an apparently intoxicated man exit the vehicle, stumble and fall. She said it was too dark for her to give a description.
She was unsure whether any other people were in the car, and she did not check. Around noon the same day, the vehicle was still there, unlocked and open, so the woman called police.
According to dispatch records, the woman expressed concern for the man and worried the car might be stolen. Officers arrived at the scene around 9:30 p.m. and determined it was Hare's stolen Jeep. They found the vehicle locked with no keys inside. It was impounded by Western Oregon Tow. The report said Hare was in Cave Junction when notified his vehicle had been recovered.
The Daily Courier made a public records request to examine the findings of the Medford police investigation and was told the report and any other documents could not be released because the investigation is considered ongoing.
One sentence of the DOJ's letter to the Josephine County District Attorney's office says that Hare was not cooperative with Medford police. Hare, when contacted by the Daily Courier on Thursday, took exception to that statement.
"I was very cooperative," Hare said. He said a detective from the Medford police department showed up at his residence unannounced. Hare said he told the detective he was committed to a prior appointment and the detective asked him to cancel that commitment in order to speak with him.
"I told him I wouldn't do that. I'm not going to cancel on somebody unless it is an emergency. That wasn't an emergency," Hare said.
He added, "That was the only attempt to contact me."
Hare said a number of people have speculated on whether he filed a false report, and he's glad to have the issue behind him.
"At the end of the day, the car was recovered," he said. "There are real issues to deal with in Josephine County."
The Department of Justice letter to Stephen Campbell, dated Oct. 24, states: "Your office requested the Criminal Justice Division investigate allegations that County Commissioner Simon Hare filed a false police report and drove while under the influence in Grants Pass on May 10, 2013. I have reviewed the police reports concerning this investigation from both the Grants Pass Police Department and the Medford Police Department. I see that Mr. Hare was not cooperative with the Medford Police Department's attempt to speak with him about the allegations. I have also reviewed the cellphone records which were obtained from Verizon. Based on my review, I do not believe there is additional investigation to be done nor do I believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Mr. Hare with a crime. Consequently, the Criminal Justice Division will take no further action in this matter."
It was signed by Kristen E. Hoffmeyer, senior assistant attorney general, criminal justice division.
Reach reporter Jim Moore at 541-474-3721 or firstname.lastname@example.org