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Former Medford officer won't have to repay city

A former Medford police officer found guilty of perjury in a case that involved a disputed phone call and a battle over unemployment benefits will not have to repay those benefits. Now the former officer is appealing his felony conviction in hopes of returning to the force.

After a Jackson County Circuit Court jury found Joshua Danrich guilty of a single count of perjury in April, the 12-year veteran of the Medford Police Department was sentenced by Judge Tim Gerking to 80 hours of community service and three years' supervised probation.

But Gerking recently ruled against prosecution efforts to force Danrich to reimburse the city $12,818 to cover the unemployment benefits he collected.

Danrich was fired from the MPD in January 2010. Police officials said that he initially failed to respond to the scene of a citizen call in August 2009 about a neighborhood smell and, when questioned, lied about turning down a wrong street after receiving a distracting phone call from his girlfriend.

The city had tried to deny Danrich his unemployment benefits. But its efforts were denied by an administrative law judge who found Danrich eligible for the assistance.

Gerking said in his written opinion that the city had not proven its case regarding unemployment payments. While Danrich had been found guilty of lying about receiving the cell phone call in the perjury case, the judge who determined Danrich eligible to receive benefits could still have found a basis to allow the payments, he wrote.

Danrich said Thursday he was relieved to receive notice of the judge's opinion.

"The judge ruled, 'You guys fired him, but he has the right to unemployment benefits,' " Danrich said.

Gerking noted the city could still pursue its case against Danrich under other Oregon statutes.

Deputy City Attorney Lori Cooper said Friday the city will not dispute the judge's ruling, nor proceed with further legal action regarding Danrich's unemployment.

Prior to the close of the April perjury case, prosecutors made Danrich an offer: If Danrich would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of "false swearing" and pay back the unemployment benefits, the felony perjury charge would be dropped.

Danrich refused the offer, stating he still believed he received the cellphone call from Tia Jaggers, to whom he's now married.

Danrich testified that his supervisor at the time, Lt. Greg Lemhouse, cursed and humiliated him during a performance review in September 2008. Danrich said he was being retaliated against for complaining to management that Lemhouse had made overtures toward Jaggers.

Lemhouse, an Ashland city councilman, did not testify in the case and has consistently denied the allegations when contacted by the Mail Tribune.

Former Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen and other top police officials said regardless of any issue between Danrich and Lemhouse, Danrich's lies to superior officers about the phantom cell phone call were sufficient cause for his dismissal.

Danrich's attorney, Peter Carini, argued the police were being hypocritical by holding his client to a higher standard of performance and honesty over a call on a minor neighborhood issue than they did regarding the accusations against Lemhouse.

Danrich is appealing his perjury conviction. If he wins, Danrich said, he will seek a date for an arbitration hearing "to get his job back."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.