Roy Peterson, who was convicted on three felony counts related to theft from the Monument Rural Fire District, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday, Oct. 3.
A 12-person jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree theft, first-degree aggravated theft and possession of a stolen vehicle Aug. 26 in Grant County Circuit Court after a five-day trial. He was found not guilty of another count of first-degree aggravated theft.
In a Sept. 29 memo to the court, the state prosecutor, Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel P. Wendel, recommended the judge impose a sentence of four years of probation for the first-degree theft charge and a total sentence of 18 months in prison for the first-degree aggravated theft and possession of a stolen vehicle charges.
Although Peterson had no prior convictions, the state argues Peterson committed the first-degree theft charge before the others and should be sentenced as having a prior felony record for the other two charges, which would support a longer sentence. The state also argues five enhancement facts — persistent involvement in similar offenses, violating public trust, multiple victims, lack of remorse and risk to public safety — apply to each count and support the recommended sentence.
Peterson’s attorney, D. Zachary Hostetter, argues in a Sept. 28 memo to the court that Peterson should face a presumptive probation period of two years and requests that the court deny the state’s request for longer sentencing due to the enhancement facts.
Hostetter asked the court to consider Peterson’s background and personal history, which he detailed in the memo. Hostetter also included two affidavits with six letters from people who spoke highly of Peterson. The letter writers were his wife; Robert Watt, a John Day business owner; Ralph Gano Miller, who owns property near Peterson’s; Gordon Foster, a former Oregon Department of Forestry employee in John Day; Daniel Kehr, Peterson’s neighbor; and Troy Cox, whose family owns property near Peterson’s.
A two-hour sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, in Grant County Circuit Court.
The charges stem from Peterson’s acquisition of resources — money and equipment — for fire protection in Monument and his subsequent refusal to turn over the resources to the Monument Rural Fire District, which was formed by voters in November of 2012.
Wendel said in his closing argument at the trial that the first-degree theft charge was for submitting a fraudulent invoices in excess of $1,000 with a grant application to the Oregon Department of Forestry on or about Feb. 15, 2013. Wendel said Peterson used white out to submit the same invoice on different grant applications in 2011 and 2012.
The first-degree aggravated theft and possession of a stolen vehicle charges were for withholding fire vehicles and equipment in excess of $10,000 from the Monument Rural Fire District on or about Feb. 21, 2013.
After an investigation by the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Justice that began in May 2013, police served a search warrant in October 2013 at property in the Monument area and seized fire vehicles and evidence for the case.
The indictment count for possession of a stolen vehicle lists “a 1970 Ford, a 1974 Freightliner, a 1983 Ford L9M, a 1993 Ford F350, a second 1993 Ford F350, a 1965 Western States, a 1966 Ford 900, a 1974 Western States, a 1986 Ford Econoline, and a 1988 International.”
For about a decade, Peterson was a vocal advocate for establishing a rural fire protection district in the Monument area. He was chief of Monument’s city department at one time and also acted as chief of the rural district that was yet to be formalized.
After the rural district was formed by voters in November 2012, the newly installed board and Peterson differed on its management and operation. Noting challenges with meeting procedures, operations, equipment and leadership, all of the board members resigned in December 2012.
The board was re-established in January 2013 when the Grant County Court appointed new members. The new chief of the district asked Peterson to return the equipment to the district, but he did not.