August 31, 2015 at 11:35 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Prosecutors to drop sex case against Terry Bean
Terry Bean, gay news, Washington Blade

Terry Bean and his former boyfriend were indicted on two counts of third-degree sodomy and one count of third-degree sexual abuse. (Photo public domain)

Prosecutors in Lane County, Ore., disclosed on Aug. 28 that they expect to dismiss sex-with-minor charges against gay rights leader and real estate developer Terry Bean on Tuesday after deciding not to force the 17-year-old alleged victim in the case to testify at Bean’s trial.

According to the Eugene Register Guard, prosecutors told Lane County Circuit Court Judge Jay McAlpin at an Aug. 28 hearing that the 17-year-old doesn’t want to testify and the trial would only take place as scheduled on Sept. 1 in the unlikely chance that the youth changes his mind.

Prosecutors’ disclosure that they expect to call for the dismissal of the case came a little over a month after they informed McAlpin that the 17-year-old had gone into hiding with the support of his mother, prompting the judge to agree to postpone the trial that initially was set to begin on Aug. 11.

The youth and his mother decided to hide from authorities after another judge rejected a civil agreement reached between Bean and the youth that, under Oregon law, allowed the two parties to petition the court to dismiss the criminal case against Bean. Court observers believed the agreement calls for Bean to make a monetary payment to the 17-year-old. Details of the agreement were presented in a court session closed to the public and the media.

Bean, 66, and his former boyfriend, Kiah Lawson, 25, were indicted last November on two counts of third-degree sodomy, a felony, and one count of third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor, in connection with allegations that they had sex with the then 15-year-old in a hotel room in Eugene in September 2013. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

An attorney representing Lawson said earlier this year that Lawson and Bean met the youth through the mobile phone app Grindr.

Lane County prosecutor Scott Healy told the court earlier this month that a “squad of detectives” had searched unsuccessfully for the 17-year-old after his mother told friends her son wanted to prevent the trial from happening so the civil settlement could be finalized. Prosecutors acknowledged they could not move forward with the trial without the youth, who was to be the star witness against Bean and Lawson.

The Register Guard reported that Healy disclosed for the first time at the Aug. 28 hearing that he met with the 17-year-old on Aug. 11 through an arrangement made with the youth’s lawyer. The newspaper reported that two days later, Lane County Chief Deputy District Attorney Erik Hasselman served the youth with a subpoena during another meeting.

But Hasselman told reporters that despite the subpoena, prosecutors would not force the youth to testify, pointing to statements by the youth’s attorney that the youth was distraught over the prospect of appearing in court. The attorney, Lori Deveny, told the court at the Aug. 28 hearing that the 17-year-old was traumatized over the pending case and at one point attempted suicide.

“We have made the decision that we would not seek to bring him back involuntarily,” the Register Guard quoted Healy as saying at the Aug. 28 hearing.

Hasselman told news media outlets that on Tuesday, the day the trial was to begin, he would ask the judge to dismiss the case without prejudice, a ruling that would enable prosecutors to file the same charges against Bean if the youth were to change his mind and agree to testify.

Bean’s attorney, Derek Ashton, has asked the court to dismiss the charges against Bean “with prejudice,” which would prevent prosecutors from reinstating the case.

Since the charges first surfaced against him, Bean has denied having sex with the then 15-year-old, saying the allegations of the sexual encounter were part of a scheme by Lawson to extort money from him following an acrimonious breakup of their relationship.

Bean’s attorneys note that police first learned about the alleged sexual encounter with the youth when Lawson contacted police and gave them the youth’s contact information. Authorities, however, have said the youth stated in testimony before a grand jury that the alleged sexual encounter between Lawson, Bean and the youth did take place.

According to Bean’s lawyers, the youth initially appeared to be collaborating with Lawson to ensnare Bean in a months-long scheme to intimidate Bean into paying them money.

Assuming prosecutors file a motion for dismissal of the charges on Tuesday, Sept. 1, Judge McAlpin was expected to issue a ruling on whether the dismissal would be with or without prejudice.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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