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Missing Money and the Suspicious Jail Death of Robert HawsTim King Salem-News.com
"I know exactly where Robert got hurt, and it is the same place in the yard at the Marion Jail where all the attacks happen. The only place in the yard that gets the sun, which inmates really miss, is out of the camera's line of view." - Friend of deceased
(SALEM, Ore.) - The death of 29-year old Robert Haws, an inmate in the Marion County jail, on Tuesday, 13 July, involves significant information that was not revealed in our earlier report.
A news release was issued six days after the attack, when Robert Haws died in Salem Hospital, where he was taken after being injured at the jail. The incident leading to his mortal injury or injuries, reportedly involved Haws being injured by a single inmate in a fight.
That is what we were told. The man's family was instructed not to talk to media; that is very problematic and seemingly only helpful for police investigators trying to keep information from getting out.
The news release issued 20 July 2010 stated:
"Deputies responded to the aid of the injured inmate. He was evaluated by the on-duty Nurse and upon her direction, transported to the Salem Hospital for further treatment."
Prior to this death, Haws said that a significant amount of money he was carrying at the time of his arrest was missing. Apparently he was prepared to put money down on a rental at the time of his arrest, accounting for the sizable amount of cash.
During a jail visit, Haws told his martial arts instructor Jerry Timm of Salem, that he had been carrying $1,552 at the time of his arrest, but he was concerned because the arrest/booking report, he told Timm, only showed $552 dollars going into jail property; a full thousand dollars short of what he said he was carrying.
I asked Timm to explain exactly when Haws told him this, and he replied, "He told me they took it when I visited him the first time. I visited him on the 13th, the visit before was in June."
I also spoke to Salem Police Lt. Dave Okada about procedures regarding money and arrests, since Salem PD is the agency that arrested Robert Haws. In the past, police frequently asked drivers if they have, "drugs, guns or large amounts of cash." I admit it has been quite a few years, but I have had the question posed during a simple pullover. I know many other people who have been the recipient of the same question. Perhaps this is tied to the police seizure laws that were very prominent in Oregon's past.
At any rate, Okada told me that police do not itemize the amount of money a suspect is carrying at the time of arrest. It seems that if they did, it would be easy to determine where the thousand dollars went, providing the information Haws stated about it is accurate.
The notion that a thousand dollars went missing is a serious allegation. So who was Robert Haws?
The victim was a martial artist, highly regarded by his master or 'sinsei', as well as others who knew him. Two people who knew him well, say it is unlikely he would have been in a fight in the first place. Like Jerry Timm, Alan Cherry knew Robert through martial arts, only as a fellow student.
Both say he was a real contender, not one to lose a fight very easily at all. Alan Cherry said, "Rob was one of the hardest hitters in our class. He was extremely formidable."
Jerry Timm says they were very close. "He was like a son to me, that is how it is with our particular martial arts program, which is similar to a Kung Fu style. There is a family hierarchy that goes with this, a lot of trust, I can't believe he is gone."
Friends admit he had a lead foot, so they weren't surprised that Robert was speeding on Kale Road in Salem the night he was arrested. He had half an ounce of marijuana, and the arrest report stated that he was selling it. Timm says that is ridiculous, but it seems irrelevant at this point. He was arrested on a probation violation, and had additional charges pending for delivery of marijuana, reckless endangering and attempting to elude.
Regardless of that, today marijuana is legal for many people who are sick. Possession of half an ounce of pot would result in an infraction in many states and a one or two hundred dollar fine. It cost Robert Haws his life, and it robbed his family and friends of many years with a person they treasured.
He was on probation for 'menacing' which sounds pretty bad, but a closer look at the incident behind that, at least according to Haws, no longer here to defend himself, and those who knew him, was not at all what it appeared to be.
According to Timm, "The menacing case came from a road rage confrontation with a State Police dispatcher."
His friends believe the odds were stacked against him from the beginning. Timm says it was the other driver, not Robert Haws, who initiated the problem.
"That guy was driving on his bumper, driving along side of his car and flipping him off, and then he pulled out in front of Robert and slammed on his brakes."
Jerry Timm says Robert's only mistake was relenting to the harassment and pulling over to the side. "Obviously it was a mistake, the guy who turned out to be a police dispatcher for OSP, told Robert he was going to, 'kick his ass' and Robert told him that if the guy pushed it, that the outcome would be totally different from what he might expect."
He says the other driver left and Robert called the police to report what had happened. Amazingly, Robert Haws ended up with a menacing conviction. That in part led to the deadly situation at the Marion County Jail. Cops siding unfairly with cops? Go figure, some would say it is not the law or honesty, but the protection of fellow officers that commands the attention of most in law enforcement today. Either way, it is common belief that law enforcement officials who violate the law are in fact worse than other criminals, and should be treated more harshly.
Robert Haws would have celebrated his 30th birthday a couple of Saturdays ago.
Little is known at this time about the violent incident that led to the death of Robert Haws. I know that an autopsy was performed, through a conversation with officials at the State Medical Examiners Office in Clackamas. They also were able to state that an autopsy is not performed on every case of a similar nature. Our writer Dr. Phil Leveque who is a Forensic Toxicologist, says it is very good that the autopsy took place.
Another friend of Robert Haws who contacted Salem-News, stressed that there are far too few cameras located in the jail, also alleging that they are not properly monitored.
"I know exactly where Robert got hurt, and it is the same place in the yard at the Marion Jail where all the attacks happen. The only place in the yard that gets the sun, which inmates really miss, is out of the camera's line of view."
His friends believe it is unlikely that Robert Haws would have gained an enemy that was impossible to avoid violent contact with. He had strong negotiation skills, the specific ability to diffuse negative situations, and was, as his friend said, a formidable fighter.
Sex offenders are attacked and killed in jail, but hot rodders, martial artists and marijuana users, aren't typically targets, or people who draw the ire of others.
Jerry Timm says he visited Robert Haws in jail twice, once in June and once the day he was fatally injured. Timm says the phone calls at the Marion County Jail are recorded, and that Haws spoke openly about the missing thousand dollars. He did however, have an apparent reluctance to disclose over the jail phone-that he planned to accept a 19-month plea bargain.
Timm says he learned of his student's plan to accept the plea bargain during his 8:00 a.m. visit with Haws on 13 July, approximately two hours before the reported one on one fight with an inmate that ultimately led to his death, by reading a note that Haws held up to the glass window.
The martial arts instructor also said, "He was afraid he was never going to see his mother again. She has lupus. He said that day, 'I don't think I'll ever see her alive again.' He was going to take the plea bargain because they told him he was going to get five years, the DA wasn't moving on any of the charges."
Timm says a former cellmate of Haws stopped by his dojo after Haws died and talked about how they practiced martial arts in the cell to kill time.
He also says Haws told him he was transferred to another pod just before the visit, the morning of the attack, the day he received a mortal injury. He also recalls, "He was working in the kitchen." (at the jail)
The attack happened at approximately 10:30 a.m. according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, "The incident occurred in the recreation yard in the minimum security cellblock. The yard is available to inmates and supervised by deputies and security staff."
Former Oregon Corrections Officer William Coleman of Salem, said, "In that case, the longest a fight should last, in a corrections setting, is about ten seconds." It seems hard to believe that this accomplished martial artist would have been fatally injured in that setting.
I voiced concerns about the missing money to Don Thomson, spokesman for Marion County Sheriff Troy Clausen. We had a long conversation about it. The bottom line according to Thomson, was that only the family could bring the allegation about the missing money forward.
Yet it was his own agency, the Marion County Sheriff's Office, that had strictly advised the family not to talk to media. I am not sure what advantage the public has in such a policy. It left this reporter with a serious allegation about missing money and a possible connection to Haws' death, holding the bag, so to speak.
I know Sgt Gary Adcock tried to call at least once, I returned his calls, but we have yet to connect. I hope the investigation is in effect and I appreciate Sheriff Troy Clausen a great deal in his desire to get to the bottom of whatever may or may not be going on.
We're talking about People
Jails are not places where convicts live, they are places where some people serve time, and others are simply held on an arrest for an unproven allegation. Marijuana and driving offenses hardly seem like they are a worthy use of taxpayer funds and fair reasons to place a citizen in such a dangerous environment.
One thing is certain, few Oregon families are not related to someone who has or will end up in jail.
It is also a fact that sometimes people are mistakenly charged and arrested. There are plenty of men and women who never should have been arrested at all, as their crimes were fairly minor in nature. Either way, it seems the odds of not surviving the experience in Marion County, are possibly at an all time high.
This clearly is an unacceptable number of deaths; they represent severe financial liabilities for Marion County and the payments over lawsuits come straight from the taxpayer's wallet. Insurance rates for dangerous jails can't be cheap either.
The family of Robert Haws went to great effort to make sure no reporters could attend the funeral. I think if there are any crooked law enforcement officials involved in this story, that they are very happy with the family for effectively redirecting their anger and grief toward the press. In fact I heard that a reporter from the Statesman Journal Newspaper tried to approach the family and was treated with real hostility.
If a reporter takes the time to visit a family in the case of a suspicious death, I recommend that the family talk to the reporter and never follow a direction from an investigator to not speak with media.
Being a crime victim family does not mean an American loses their Civil Rights, that is preposterous and insulting.
Marion County's Jail at minimum, needs to have an adequate camera system installed; it seems clear that it would only raise the safety level. Finally, in spite of what problems may or may not exist at the Marion County Jail, it is outstanding that Undersheriff Troy Clausen called for an investigation into the matter involving of the death of Robert Haws.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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