Blue Mountain Eagle
CANYON CITY – Former John Day Police Chief Richard Tirico has been cleared of official misconduct in a trial that ended even before the defense put on its case.
Grant County Circuit Judge William D. Cramer Jr. issued his ruling for a directed verdict of acquittal just four hours into testimony in the Sept. 8 jury trial, after the state had called several witnesses and rested its case.
Defense attorney J. Robert Moon moved for acquittal, charging that the state had failed to produce any evidence to support the charges.
The acquittal ends two years of legal limbo for Tirico, who resigned the chief’s job in October 2013, as a state Department of Justice investigation was underway in the local department. In September 2014, a Grant County grand jury indicted Tirico on two counts of official misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor. He pleaded innocent to the charges last February.
Moon said his client was relieved at the outcome, acknowledging it was “a very difficult two years.”
“He wants to thank the community, his family, and especially his wife Cindy, for their support during that time,” Moon said.
The state alleged police work was improperly charged to a drunken-driving enforcement grant obtained by Tirico for the City of John Day.
The grant in question came from a program administered at that time by the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. Of the $2,000 awarded to John Day, the state’s case focused on about $800 in expenditures claimed by the police department.
However, Moon says the parameters of the DUII grant were never spelled out, and there was no training to guide what could, or could not, fall under the grant.
“It was never clear to anybody what the scope of the grant was,” he said. “And Rich felt what he turned in was appropriate.”
Moon said officers working under Tirico had no guidance, either.
“He was completely innocent,” said Moon, noting that the city had obtained the grants in prior years and Tirico felt his actions were in concert with past grant operations under previous chiefs.
Moon stressed there was never any suggestion of personal gain by Tirico.
Further, he said, the grant program paid the money to the city without question and never requested additional paperwork or any reimbursement.
The questions arose later, as DOJ began interviewing officers who apparently mentioned uncertainties about how the grant was charged or reported.
Assistant Attorney General Colin Benson, presenting the state’s case at trial, called two police officers to the stand during the trial. One told the court Tirico had done much good for the community, and said he felt the trial was a waste of time.
Another testified only after being given immunity in the case, concerned that if Tirico’s grant reporting was found to be wrong, he could face prosecution for changing a time card submitted for the DUII grant. Cross-examined by Moon, the officer confirmed he didn’t have a full understanding of guidelines for the grant.
Cramer, in his decision, agreed with the defense contention that there was nothing to show the terms required for the grant reporting, nor was there evidence of any training for grant performance.
He issued what is called a “directed verdict” for acquittal, meaning a reasonable jury would not reach any other conclusion based on the evidence presented.