Gross Violation

By Nick Budnick | Willamette Week | December 24, 2002

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Officer Gina Hoesly has long had less privacy than the average cop, thanks to the Portland Police Bureau's rumor mill.

Hoesly , 34, has dated rock musicians, other cops and Portland Trail Blazers. She's had breast implants and once posed for a photo on a website selling motorcycle gear--badpig.com--showing plenty of skin. In 1996, she won a $20,000 settlement from the bureau in a sexual-harassment claim based on behavior by her co-workers. But none of that comes close to the scrutiny she received in March, when fellow officers rifled through her garbage. The evidence they found led to her indictment on charges of possessing ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Hoesly, a 13-year police officer who occasionally was an undercover decoy in police prostitution stings, became the subject of an investigation early this year, when she told police she'd been assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Joshua David Rodriguez. Rodriguez has a history of drug arrests and convictions, and when officers booked him on assault charges, they found meth in his pocket.

Subsequently police began investigating Hoesly, hearing rumors from police informants that she had used drugs. On March 13 at 2:07 am, narcotics officers Jay Bates and Michael Krantz took her garbage. The order to do so came from Assistant Chief Andrew Kirkland, who dated Hoesly in the early '90s.

Searching through her trash back at Central Precinct, they found traces of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia. They also found a bloody tampon. They sent a piece of the tampon to the state crime lab, where forensics experts tested it for drugs, DNA and, for reasons that remain unclear, semen. The results of those tests have not been released.

The police didn't seek a search warrant to take Hoesly's trash because, as the Multnomah County District Attorney's office conceded, officers didn't at the time have sufficient evidence to convince a judge to issue a warrant. But once they had drug residue from Hoesly's trash, officers were able to persuade Judge Dorothy Baker to issue a search warrant for Hoesly's house. Inside, they found more paraphernalia and a diary that described apparent drug use. An indictment was issued in June.

Hoesly, who is currently on medical leave and at the time of her arrest was in the process of medically retiring, pleaded not guilty and hired criminal-defense lawyer Stephen Houze. Like a Labrador smelling leftover turkey, Houze promptly zeroed in on the grabbing of her garbage. He argued that under Oregon's Constitution, privacy rights extend to someone's trash--at least until it's picked up by trash haulers. The used tampon "goes to the heart of just what an outrageous violation of privacy rights this police search was," Houze said. "If the police will do this to a police officer, who won't they do it to?"

Not only that, he said, but if garbage is up for grabs, "There will be identity thieves lining up out there on every garbage day, knowing they can [take trash] with impunity."

The Hoesly case is not unprecedented. In 1997, police poked in the trash of David Peters, a star prosecutor for Multnomah County, and found cocaine residue, which was used to obtain a search warrant. Unlike Hoesly, he was not indicted; instead, he was fined and allowed to enter court diversion to maintain a clean record.

In a hearing on Dec. 10, Judge Jean Kerr Maurer agreed with Houze, issuing a ruling that said the cops' taking of trash was illegal. Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonnell immediately said his office would challenge the ruling.