Oregon court reverses ex-lawyer’s sexual abuse conviction
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the conviction Wednesday of a former lawyer who was sentenced to prison on charges of sexually touching a 10-year-old girl, agreeing that there were problems with how the case was prosecuted.
The ruling means Bradley Christopher Holbrook, now 50, will no longer have to register as a sex offender and could get his law license back because he is no longer a convicted felon.
Holbrook was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in 2002 and served a term of more than six years in prison after the child said he touched her vaginal area and buttocks through her clothing when the two were alone in her friend’s kitchen.
There were no witnesses to the incident and no physical evidence. Holbrook denied it.
In her only taped interview, the girl told investigators that it could have been an accident, that Holbrook “probably didn’t mean to” and that she “couldn’t, like, feel it.”
Holbrook’s first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury. He was convicted in a second trial.
The state could appeal the decision to the Oregon Supreme Court or prosecutors could move for a retrial.
“I’m just trying to grasp it all, process it all,” Holbrook told The Oregonian/OregonLive after the ruling. “It’s been a long battle. . I wish this on no one. It destroys every aspect of a person’s life.”
A summary of the case filed in the court’s decision says Holbrook filed a complaint with the Oregon State Bar between his first and second trials, alleging that prosecutor Cal Tichenor falsely told jurors after the hung trial that he had had a relationship with a student.
Tichenor acknowledged that he had told jurors he heard third-hand that Holbrook may have had a relationship with a student. The prosecutor said he was never able to determine if the “rumors” were true and Holbrook’s ex-wife later denied making the statements to Holbrook’s sister-in-law.
Tichenor was allowed by the judge to introduce character witnesses in the second trial to testify about Holbrook’s sexual propriety.
He asked the character witnesses if they were aware of rumors that Holbrook had come home with hickeys on his stomach; stayed out until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.; was rumored to have had relationship with another woman; and had secretly corresponded with a young girl, according to court records.
The trial judge allowed the line of questioning to continue over the objections of Holbrook’s defense attorney. The defense failed to bring up the issue of the potential line of questioning at a pre-trial hearing.
The appeals court found that one question in particular would have been prejudicial to the jury, even though the witnesses said they had no knowledge of such rumors. That question was, “Are you aware that he was suspected of having a relationship with a little girl writing letters secretly to a post office box that his wife did not have access to?”
During an Oregon State Bar investigation into Tichenor, the prosecutor admitted that at least some of his questions were based on rumors. He also said he had tried to substantiate some of the information he had heard but he had been unable to.
A bar trial panel found that Tichenor violated one of the rules of professional conduct for lawyers, but the state’s high court tossed that finding in 2006 after finding the bar had pursued Tichenor under the wrong disciplinary rule.
Holbrook now lives in Newberg and is married with two young children. He works as a paralegal, he told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com