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A Witness With No CredibilityTim King Salem-News.com
"Beating down a woman for twenty years consistently. Threatening the lives of his kids" - William Coleman describing Joseph 'Joe' Salazar Jr.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Police and news media in Salem used the testimony of a known criminal to hang a pair of African-American state security officers out to dry in November 2008. Now that same convict, Joe Salazar, once the star witness of a Statesman Journal article, is facing years in prison for a life of criminal domestic abuse.
Try to imagine being a married man, and a father, and then from out of nowhere, being fired from your job for an accusation of having "homosexual sex" with a work partner while in a law enforcement vehicle. Add to that the fact that the man making the accusations has a serious criminal record and has served time for beating his wife and having sex with a minor.
This is what happened to William Coleman and it isn't the kind of experience anyone quickly heals from.
Of course it seems like anyone in his shoes would sue the pants off of the state for firing him over a non-credible accusation, but when a local newspaper runs big beefy stories inferring that those homosexual allegations just may be true, you see how his chances for success were impacted.
It is important to note that these allegations were totally "unfounded" according to the police report, and ridiculous to anyone who spends five seconds around William Coleman.
Coleman worked at the Oregon State Prison, unsuccessfully battling racism by following established legal channels. During the time he worked there from Jan. 2005 to May 2007, he contacted a local reporter at the Statesman Journal newspaper named Allan Gustafson numerous times. Coleman specifically documented over 25 racial incidents; almost all Civil Rights violations. Not one of these allegations about racial discrimination that Coleman revealed to the reporter, were published.
Unbeknownst to Coleman, an investigation was launched against him on alleged contraband violations; of cigarette smuggling- after he blew the whistle over a particular case involving a guard having written racial slurs in a magazine that a black inmate subscribed to, by federal mail.
This was the first significant act of legal retaliation toward Coleman's whistleblowing. The second would come the day he filed a lawuit over his wrongful termination, when a local prosecutor filed an already prepared 15-count indictment the same afternoon. It appears quite obvious that Oregon had launched its top level discrediting process; but in the case of William Coleman, they just didn't know who they were dealing with, or what they were up against. Coleman's ultimate legal success at beating the police allegations says a great deal about who is who in this story.
Coleman resigned his position at the prison in frustration and took a job about a year later as a state security guard for Oregon State Hospital (OSH), in October 2008.
Within his first two weeks of being hired, a state police detective named Greg Withers, who was involved in the 'contraband' case against Coleman, observed and recognized Coleman in his new position at OSH, and immediately proceeded to speak with Coleman's boss, Joe McCarthy, a friend of the OSP detective. Immediately after that, Coleman's schedule was changed from night shift to day shift. He was told by superiors at the state hospital that "they were aware of the investigation at the prison," and that they "were keeping an eye on (him)."
About two weeks later, while making their rounds, Coleman and another security guard observed a man on a child's bicycle 'bunny hopping' gravestones in a cemetery adjacent to OSH. The man who appeared very sketchy, suddenly approached the unmarked state security car. Fearing that the man had a weapon and was unaware they were state officers, Coleman jumped out of the car and scared the man away.
Joe Salazar was the cemetery gatekeeper. He has a criminal past, convicted of sex crimes involving minors and domestic assault. He is now facing serious new domestic abuse charges for a recent incident and is facing prison.
Coleman was fired that same day because Salazar said he and Gregory were "having sex" in the vehicle they were riding in. The accusation was taken very seriously by a Salem officer named Waymon Hubbard, and also by Coleman's boss Joe McCarthy. The unfounded allegations of a sex act between Gregory and Coleman were never mentioned to the very men whose reputations were being destroyed. They heard about the devastating accusations through the grapevine, after many others had already spread the lurid gossip.
The allegations were recorded on a police report and the Salem officer, Waymon Hubbard, took the report to the Oregon State Prison and showed it to the various officers Coleman had battled over racism. Coleman was not allowed to pick the same report up at the Salem Police Department, for unknown reasons. Still, the news about it was spreading like wildfire in the local law enforcement community and at the prison.
William Coleman's actual Wrongful Terminiation/Defamation lawsuit against the state hospital was filed July 1, 2009. The very same day, Marion County Prosecutor Brian Orrio filed a 15-count indictment against Coleman for smuggling contraband, specifically cigarettes, into the state prison when he worked there as a guard. This was William Coleman's reward for blowing the whistle on racism at the state prison.
This is about when Allan Gustafson decided to run an article about Coleman's lawsuit... Accused officer files lawsuit in a Separate State Case. It is interesting that he chose to begin with "Accused officer" as it clearly set the tone for any credibility Coleman had at that point.
Then the various agencies Coleman had approached for help, like BOLI and SAIF, began telling him that his stress wasn't related to the racism and corruption he experienced, but was more connected to the alleged crimes he had committed as a guard. Coleman says it was heartbreaking.
Then, the very next day the paper published the story, "Events in state suit disputed by witness", which if you read it, appears to clearly advocate for the state of Oregon's case. The writer portrays Salazar as a very credible witness, though he is a hardened criminal who, according to records, has been severely beating his wife over a 20-year period. Gustafson never once mentions the man's criminal history.
Then Coleman's court date for the 15 counts of smuggling cigarettes into the prison began. Coleman says time and time again he was approached with plea deals; each time he told them he would not accept what they offered. He took his case to a jury trial, and he was facing 40 years in prison if convicted.
The average human being does not have what it takes to put themselves through this kind of an ordeal, but Coleman did and with the testimony of a single African-American inmate, the jury unanimously found William Coleman Not Guilty on all counts. And all the while, Coleman's public defender, Suzanne Taylor, led him to believe that he would have three witnesses testify in the case. She only however, allowed one to be called.
For this momentous victory, a small article about Coleman appeared in the Statesman Journal several pages into the newspaper. Note that the accusation against Coleman, the "cigarette smuggling" charges, were resoundingly defeated in court. That means the whole thing was hogwash, and clearly was 100% retaliation against this man by both the Oregon Dept. of Corrections, and other state agencies. But that was front page news in the Statesman Journal.
That has been Coleman's history with Salem's newspaper. The problem is serious because Salem only has one daily newspaper and the older residents in particular, rely on it as their daily news source. When a news agency knows there are serious racial problems taking place in their area and they choose to ignore it, they are failing at their jobs. But when they actually work to protect the state, against a man who is clearly being heavily discriminated against, it seems to border on being criminally negligent.
In August 2010 a protest was held in front of the Statesman Journal over their racial values. Protesters called the paper out for racial biases and Coleman was only one of several people associated with the state DOC who spoke out about the paper's habit of ignoring serious documented racism and criminal corruption in the state prison system.
The use of Joe Salazar as a supposedly credible witness against two state security officers with perfect records who were certified and had attended the law enforcement academy, is amazing. The fact that the paper never mentioned it was relying on the word of a felon whose past is downright disturbing, is even more bizarre.
The reporter, Allan Gustafson, defended his writing to Salem-News.com and said is is "standing by it". Frustrated with Gustafson, Coleman contacted his superior at the paper, Bill Church, who promptly hung on William Coleman after saying, "I don't have time to listen to your crap". This was the impetus behind the anti-Statesman Journal protest.
Oh, and the new case against Salazar, who is described by Salem Police as an "extremely dangerous" suspect who is "impossible to work with", never made print in the Statesman Journal.
Background on Salazar
Joe Salazar Jr. of Salem, Oregon, is a criminal now facing new charges of assaulting his wife. His record shows he is a lifetime wife beater. From there it gets worse. As the reports indicate, this is a man who has maintained a vicious cycle of abuse toward females.
We already knew that he had a serious record. The simple fact is that this man who officials took so seriously was a tool in a bitter game of racist persecution. It is hard to see how any other scenario would account for the sequence of events that occurred. The debasing testimony of convict Joe Salazar, used to devastate the lives of two black men, never made sense. The report below tells a story of a man who has been, according to witness testimony and related convictions, a marauding woman beater who frequently threatens children.
In addition to the domestic abuse cited above, we knew he had served time in prison for sex crimes with a minor; we just didn't know why on earth Salem Police and the Statesman Journal chose to use this man's non credible statements about "two black men having sex in a car" to fry the reputation of William Coleman and Charles Gregory, whose lives were turned upside down by Salazar's accusations. For a long time Coleman says, everywhere he went, people began whispering amongst themselves when he approached.
The Statesman Journal article that made the wild accusations of a seemingly twisted criminal seem credible, brought the matter out into full public view, just in case anyone in Salem didn't know about it. The particular piece included in these images might deserve a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most poorly sourced article in history.
Here is what happened...
Coleman explains that after trying to change the way black prisoners were exploited and abused at the prison, by specifically documenting and reporting the racially prejudice incidents and filing complaints with prison officials, he finally resigned. He then took a job as a Security Officer with the Oregon State Hospital.
In his first 30 days of training, Coleman and Charles Gregory were patrolling the old Lee Cemetery adjacent to the state hospital in an official vehicle, when they observed an adult male on a child's size BMX bicycle, 'bunny hopping' gravestones, which the two guards believed was very disrespectful and also criminal.
Since the two guards weren't assigned to investigate cemetery crimes, they decided to park the state security vehicle to observe the individual on the bicycle, who was hooded and appeared "very shady" according to Coleman.
Then the man on the bike, who turned out to be Joe Salazar, rode up to the vehicle Coleman and Gregory were in. Coleman said, "He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and he looked like he was going to take a weapon out of his waistband."
Coleman says Gregory panicked and yelled, "He's getting a weapon!" Coleman leaped from the car and took the radio from his belt. He tried to make the suspect, Salazar, believe he had a gun. Coleman, a large individual with a serious presence, believes he placed genuine fear in Salazar, who peddled off in a hurry toward the front gate.
Then, Salazar, who turns out to be the volunteer gatekeeper for the cemetery, locked the gate- blocking the exit to the cemetery, which equates to holding an individual against their will.
His next move was to call Salem Police on a cell phone and make the accusation about one black man giving "oral sex" to another in the cemetery.
Salem Police rushed to the cemetery and Salazar then unlocked the gate to let them in. All the time Coleman and Gregory were detained, they were kept completely in the dark about what the problem even was. Coleman wouldn't learn about the sex allegation for ten days.
The damage to Coleman and Gregory's character from the homosexual sex allegation is so profound that it is not even measurable.
Sadly, we live in a society that is partly homophobic, and particularly in the law enforcement community, that can carry many unique judgments, most of which are adverse. Not to mention that both William Coleman and Charles Gregory were married men with children.
Today both live alone. Their reputations were drug through a gutter of perceived sexual depravity.
It seems clear from reading it, that the Statesman Journal article was designed to help Coleman and Gregory lose their wrongful termination case with the state. Reading the current charges listed below are also quite a statement for their credibility and news judgment.
The Statesman Journal willfully chose to use the words of this man to counter the points made by Coleman. There appears to be no other intent. They credit Salazar as though he is some kind of pillar in the community, and blatantly refused to cover the very serious issues Coleman brought forth.
The situations Coleman reported include:
The Francke Similarity: Old Pattern in Oregon
There is an interesting thing about this case that has extremely close similarities to the conviction of Frank Gable, two decades ago, in the Murder of then Corrections Chief Michael Francke.
A frazzled underage drug addict was used to convict Gable, even though she told reporters the prosecution was threatening her with jail time if she didn't comply. She did, and now more than 21 years later, an innocent man languishes in prison.
Gable's conviction is so dubious that "America's Most Wanted" star John Walsh profiled the case in one of his TV episodes. So much for the credibility of Oregon's legal system.
Coleman was framed by a hardcore criminal in an alleged sex crime involving homosexual sex with his work partner. It seems that when the state needs to convict somebody they are willing to use these types of characters; drug addicts, criminals, etc., to get a conviction. What exactly does that say for the credibility of our state's legal system?
Media and Racism
The hate filled messages of newspapers in America's past ignited the fuel for almost a century of Jim Crow laws; as they published constant reminders of racial inequity; complicating in the path of generations of African Americans.
It is the job of the press to uncover serious problems in society.
Salem, Oregon happens to have one heck of a prison population, and the problems these inmates live with affect all people of all races. Other than Salem-News.com, that population is mostly voiceless. Families all over this city are here because they have a loved one in prison, it is a fact. This is not an aspect of the community that should be overlooked, and prison corruption has a big impact on all Oregonians.
In the modern era, newspapers in southern U.S. states have actually exposed their own racial corruption in decades past. I suspect this will take place here in Oregon, but it will likely be another twenty years, and the "racist years" they will expose will be from the present time period.
The Statesman Journal newspaper as we have reported in the past, has a real reluctance to follow the trail of racial incidents reported specifically to Allan Gustafson by William Coleman.
William Coleman is a strong Christian and proponent of general moral standards. He is a person who operates within the limits of the law, who was suddenly surrounded by a very well entrenched system of corruption.
His efforts to bring about change have been thus far disappointing, but William Coleman is unrelenting and I believe he will see a better day here. For the most part he is getting a good fix on who won't work with an African-American whistleblower. You can count on us, but this is a much bigger story and it is only a matter of time before it goes to the next level. For now this saga is still mostly existing in the shadow of intolerance.
There are repeated obvious instances in modern American history where media encouraged racism. One of the darkest modern periods was the 1950's.
Then, like a storm, the Civil Rights Movement was on, and even if it was mostly television news, it was the national media that shifted the nation's consciousness over the prominence of racism.
This paragraph is from Exposing the Secrets of Mississippi Racism By Marcel Dufresne, published by American Journalism Review:
The story is horrendous; Coleman's effort from the time he realized racism was a daily reality at the Oregon State Prison, immediately after starting his job there, was to document and expose the predominate behavior and bring about change.
He thought the local newspaper would be a tool of positive change, and that if he as a Corrections Officer was willing to step up and tell the truth of what was going on inside the prison, that they would jump on the opportunity. I can tell you from a lifetime in news, such men are rare. The Statesman could have been a hero for its community; a shining knight for justice and what is right, but it was not.
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