Wheeler County Justice

December 22, 2017

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Wheeler County Justice

Wheeler County, Oregon District Attorney Gretchen M. Ladd continues to portray herself as a heroine of victims rights. Ladd was the prosecutor who made a secret plea bargain with a woman named Lisa Niehaus.

Last Memorial Day Weekend, Niehaus “crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic…on Highway 19 at about Milepost 60, a location just east of Fossil” and ran headlong into a pack of about 40 Gypsy Jokers. Three men died.

A press release issued the morning after the incident hints at the carnage, “There were two fatalities on scene and numerous serious and traumatic injuries. This resulted in a medical response requiring ambulances from Spray, Fossil, Condon, and Arlington. Five different emergency air transports occurred from both on scene and from the Asher Community Health Clinic. Volunteer medical crews and fire departments responded, along with the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office, Gilliam County Sheriff’s Office, and the Oregon State Police. Highway 19 was closed for almost nine hours as a local crane was called in to assist in clearing the wreckage. A number of the victims remain in critical care at regional area hospitals.”

Late last month, Niehaus negotiated a plea and sentencing agreement. She pled guilty to three counts of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of assault in the third degree and two counts of assault in the fourth degree, Another 12 counts were dismissed and she was sentenced 23 months in prison.

Victims

Victims of the horrific crash were never informed of the progress of the case. They were never informed of the sentencing until a month after the fact. Victims of the crash were never allowed to offer an impact statement.

In a letter to survivors of the “Lisa Niehaus Matter” earlier this week, Ladd told victims to “be aware that the 23 month sentence is an accomplishment in a case that has left members of the Department of Justice and the Oregon State Police divided as to whether a crime even happened. The alternative would be a careless driving ticket without any compensation for your losses. We believed a crime happened and prosecuted it accordingly.”

She told them they had been kept in the dark because: “Under most circumstances, the Oregon Constitution provides specific rights to crime victims. However, the law allows suspending some victim rights if a court finds that the incident involves elements of organized crime. The court ruled this incident was one of the exceptions to victim rights protections.” In other words, what the prosecutor seemed to mean was that they had not been allowed to speak at Niehaus’ sentencing because they were friends of the Gypsy Jokers and an anonymous judge, ignoring due process, had unilaterally decided the victims were too dangerous to be treated compassionately.

Screw Up

Wheeler County, with a population of 1,358 was clearly overwhelmed by the tragedy and the criminal investigation suffered. The police, preoccupied with the carnage, screwed up and the secrecy of Lisa Niehaus’ sentencing probably had more to do with that than the alleged dangerousness of the Gypsy Jokers.

The pack was on its ways to the 40th Annual Fossil Motorcycle Campout. Niehaus was returning from the same rally. She may or may not have been drinking. We will never know. At the time of the crash “she had a dog on her lap, a cellphone within reach and marijuana in the car,”

In a joint written statement published in the East Oregonian Ladd and Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys allege that “Lisa Niehaus was trapped in the car. First responders tried to render aid for victims. The responders expressed grave concern for the safety of Lisa Niehaus. Several statements by some riders indicated Lisa Niehaus’s safety was in question. First responders noted the scene was extremely volatile.”

Niehaus, was never administered a breathalyzer test. She told police on scene that she “did not know what happened” and that she had been blinded by the motorcycle headlights and did not realize that she was driving into the pack. Most of the motorcyclists had their headlights on low beam.

Released

Niehaus was released from custody then rearrested the next day. A judge authorized a blood draw and a urine test after her arrest but the results of those have never been released.

In their written statement Ladd and Humphreys say, “Niehaus was not in custody overnight, and without a drug recognition expert to confirm she was impaired when she crashed, a toxicology report alone is not sufficient to prove she was under the influence at the time.”

“Humphreys and Ladd reported several state agencies assisted in the case, and several considered the crash ‘merely an accident,’ the small paper reports. “Ladd’s office, then, became the sole advocate for the victims in this horrific crash, though others may not have done the same.’”

“The charging decision was a difficult one,” Ladd and Humphreys say, “Even the Oregon State Police and prosecutors at the Department of Justice are divided on whether this was a traffic ticket for careless driving or criminally negligent homicide. We believe now, as then, that this was a crime. Criminally negligent homicide requires prosecutors to prove in court facts constituting something more than careless. Case law is fact driven and a matter of degrees of negligence is not easily identified even among the experts.”

Never once in her written statement does Ladd say she is sorry.

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16 Responses to “Wheeler County Justice”

  1. James W Crawford Says:

    Similar incident only the victims were older and not members of a 1% club.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2018/01/gresham_man_charged_with_mansl.html#incart_river_home_pop

  2. sled tramp Says:

    “Lisa Niehaus was trapped in the car”
    Yeah? Well the damn crane that took nine hours to get there was required because the car she was “trapped in” WAS ON TOP OF MEMBERS AND THEIR BIKES.
    She hit the pack so hard a member that lost his leg was thrown over the member to his right and flew into a ditch.
    The irony here is that the pack had needed directions,saw a cop on the side of the road who offered help when asked by one of the members who died and because he was guiding,the entire situation was caught on the cruisers dash cam.
    And she STILL gets away with it.

  3. stroker Says:

    Thanks Paladin……and Happy New Year to you also.
    May this next year be unfettered by LE shenanigans!

  4. James W Crawford Says:

    Re Dutchboy:

    If the woman was returning from the same motorcycle event and had pot (quantity?) in her car, perhaps she was dealing at the event? Oregon has decriminalized marijunna but the limitations on quantity in possession, especially outside one’s home, would constrain celebrations at a weekend event. One would have to make repeated trips to a dispensary to get more pot in small quantities. Perceived members of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs are no doubt subjected to more intrusive police scrutiny and proactive prosecution than most people. Holders of an OMMP Medical Marijunna Patient Card are allowed to possess up to 24 ounces. Back in the day, anyone who was toting around 1&1/2 pounds of pot was referred to as a dealer. Perhaps this woman has an OMMP patient card which she exploits as cover to operate as a bootleg marijunna dealer?

    The irony that it might have been a resident of the small, rural Oregon town of Fossil who was supplying marijunna to the visiting Motorcycle Club members is classic. The possibility that she then assaulted her customers while under the influence is beyond ironic.

    BTW, Oregon has implied consent laws for narijunna blood testing as well alcahol breathaliser testing. The fact that multiple fatalities resulted from a collission that occurred because this woman failed to remain in her lane established probable cause to take blood samples for drug and alcahol testing.

  5. Paladin Says:

    @ stroker,

    Who knows? You may be right. Based on Rebel’s reporting, Niehaus’s plea and sentencing agreement is the next best thing to an award for civic duty.

    On a more positive note: I wish you and your’s all the best in the coming year. And as always, long may you ride.

    Paladin

  6. stroker Says:

    If I was an investigator (for the victims) I’d be looking at Niehaus’s family tree vs the DA’s office and LE in Wheeler County. This smacks of some entity maybe helping her out. Maybe she’s somebody’s daughter/girlfriend/wife/ol-lady etc. to those “in-charge” in Wheeler County. Ok…. She IS going to do time, albeit what appears to be a soft sentence for vehicular homicide….but why this reduced sentence?

    She knows somebody IMHO.

    CTL

  7. Trebor Says:

    I challenge everyone to get a copy of John Grishams book called Rogue Lawyer.Might be his best yet.Really shows how law enforcement goes into damage control and coverup when innocent people get hemmed up.Recommended this to Aging Rebel awhile back.

  8. Hero Says:

    There is no justice for MC’S. She killed three people and got released from custody the same day. It’s obvious without saying it did law enforcement basically gave her a pat on the back said good job have a nice day. Heck maybe they even did say it to her. I’m not shocked, that she got away with it. I’m shocked that they ever let anyone know she got away with it.

  9. Agnarr Says:

    Isn’t there anything in Oregon law that can allow the families and other injured riders to appeal this? This is a slap on the wrist for what she did. Surely somebody has got to see that, somewhere; oh wait… had me wife slap ma back to reality, I forget that LEO’s,and courts don’t like people who ride and wear cuts. While I’m not a current rider; I pay attention to the landscape and am seeing to many of these type of stories getting the light put on them by Rebel to not notice the trend.

    Have a Merry Christmas everyone,
    – except for Renya and his court of Jokers, that is.

    Agnarr

  10. Cap'n Bill Says:

    Here’s something:

    https://www.courtrecords.org/people/LISA+NIEHAUS+OR/

    @ dutchboy:

    I wondered the same thing

    FTW FTP

  11. Iron Rider Says:

    Still call vullshit on this deal, now it’s let’s hold hands together at both are incompetence before it really hits in the media. Sorry but no free pass from me still on this.

  12. Dutchboy Says:

    She “was returning from the same rally”. Is she a biker chick? Is/was she associated with another club? Say one hostile to the GJMC? Is/was she a pissed off GJ ex? So people see a bitch in a van murder and maim several in their group and them being pissed off is not “justifiable” to Mz. Persecutor? Many more questions than answers.

  13. Paladin Says:

    “Never once in her written statement does Ladd say she is sorry.” As far as human beings go, one would be hard pressed to find a sorrier example than Ms. Ladd.

    Paladin

  14. James W Crawford Says:

    How much pot was in the car? Was the quantity within the legal limits under Oregon Law? Holders of Oregon Medical Marijunna Program patient cards are allowed up to 24 ounces! Back when I was in HS, people who had 1&1/2 pounds of pot were prosecuted as dealers.

  15. James W Crawford Says:

    Unbelievable!

    The fact that her car had crossed the centerline of the highway for no apparent reason was prima facia evidence of negligence and impairment.

    The fact that the dog was sitting in her lap was evidence of distracted driving.

    The fact that there was marijunna in the car was evidence that she is a use and created reasonable suspicion that she might have been under the influence.

    Every cop in Oregon has at least some training in recognizing an impaired driver. Oregon State Police patrol central Oregon regularly and a trooper almost certainly could have been on scene within an hour.

  16. Old & Jaded Says:

    “Niehaus was not in custody overnight, and without a drug recognition expert to confirm she was impaired when she crashed, a toxicology report alone is not sufficient to prove she was under the influence at the time.”

    Okay…so none of the officers that responded were qualified to arrest an impaired driver? Their observations, her statements, physical evidence and a toxicology report could not have led to a conviction b/c they weren’t certified as a drug recognition expert (DRE)? I don’t buy that for a minute.

    As an aside, the Oregon State Police have DRE trained staff and per their web site, “The purpose of the Patrol Services Division is to provide a uniform presence and law enforcement services throughout the state… as well as to respond to emergency calls-for-service on Oregon’s state and interstate highways.”

    I’ve not driven down highway 19 but Fossil appears to be in the middle of nowhere, so unless a DRE arrived via a state helicopter, it might have taken someone a couple hours to respond but it would have been better than nothing. I hope the victims find some good civil lawyers to take a close look at what happened here.

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