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Man not guilty of felony assault

A Klamath Falls man was acquitted Friday on a felony assault charge for shooting and seriously wounding a Medford man while deer hunting in the woods east of Ashland in the fall of 2006.

A jury decided that Cole Reeves did not act recklessly when he fired the bullet that traveled more than 100 yards through brush and across a forest road before striking Glen Bogart in the back Oct. 1.

The men were in separate hunting parties stalking black-tailed buck deer near Howard Prairie Lake that day.

After a three-day trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, jurors accepted defense attorney Jeni Feinberg's argument that the circumstances were a tragic accident but not one that rose to the level of a crime.

After the verdict, Reeves and Bogart embraced in the courtroom, with Reeves apologizing to Bogart, who still suffers significant loss of use to his left arm that was damaged by the shot.

"I do feel for Mr. Bogart," Reeves, a 37-year-old logger, said in an interview. "I'm glad he's doing better, and I hope the best for him. We don't have any hard feelings for each other."

Outside of court, Bogart, 44, said he appreciated Reeves' apology.

"It's nice," Bogart said. "I needed that."

By closing the criminal case against Reeves, the verdict opened the door for Bogart — the owner of a Medford car-detailing business who did not have health insurance when he was shot — to file a civil suit to pay for what he called a mound of medical bills.

"This (prosecution) was a state thing," Bogart said. "I want him to be accountable for my medical bills."

Witnesses said there were about a dozen people in the woods around Reeves when he fired a shot at a black-tailed buck deer he saw down a hill about 70 yards away. Reeves could not see Bogart, who was 25 yards farther down a hill and over a road from where Reeves told investigators that his target was.

At issue was whether the shot constituted a substantial and unjustifiable risk that legally constituted the "recklessness" required for a conviction on third-degree assault, a felony.

"When you're shooting through brush that you can't see behind and you know people are near, then that's recklessness," prosecutor David Orr told the jury Friday in closing arguments of the three-day trial. "You need to know where your bullet's going."

Defense attorney Jeni Feinberg argued that Reeves believed he was taking a safe shot.

Feinberg even referred to the lack of prosecution of Vice President Dick Cheney who wounded a friend with a shotgun blast while bird hunting in Texas in 2006 as proof such cases don't rise to the level of crimes.

"The prosecution is asking you to say there's no such thing as an accident," Feinberg told the jury. "Cole Reeves should not be here. This was an accident, not a crime."

In the end, several members of the seven-woman, five-man jury said they accepted Feinberg's assertions after an hour of deliberation.

"We didn't think he recklessly shot him," said one juror, a woman who declined to reveal her name. "Unfortunately, somebody got really hurt. But we felt, yes, it was an accident."

The case has drawn interest statewide in part because Reeves became only the fifth person in Oregon in 12 years to face any sort of criminal prosecution stemming from 39 total cases of a hunter wounding someone in what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife historically classifies as a "hunting accident."

A Mail Tribune review in 2006 of state hunting accident reports and court records confirmed that one hunter was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced in 2002 in Lane County to 20 days in jail. Two other hunters were convicted of wildlife violations in similar cases.

The lone other defendant was originally charged with third-degree assault for shooting and wounding a hunter in Baker County in 1997. That case was dismissed after the defendant's insurance company agreed to pay the victim $18,000, court records show.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

pennell photo