Defense pushes Gushwa trial to March

Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa listens as Assistant Attorney General Erin Greenawald presents 11 contempt of court charges against him during an arraignment Monday in Pendleton.

A ream of new evidence has prompted a delay in the misconduct trial of Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa. The earliest the trial will begin now is in the middle of March, six weeks later than the original date.

The Oregon Department of Justice has charged Gushwa with five counts of official misconduct, a misdemeanor in Oregon, for using his office to obtain sex and trying to cover it up. Court documents show the state has claimed Gushwa intimidated and threatened two women assistants in the district attorney's office to have sexual relations with him from late 2008 to mid 2010.

Gushwa has pleaded not guilty to those charges and has denied any wrongdoing. He has admitted to having the relationships with the two women but said they were consensual.

A jury was to hear the case during the week of Jan. 24, but defense attorney Will Perkinson asked the court for a later date after the state gave him 573 new pages of evidence Monday. That came on top of the 1,194 pages of discovery Perkinson said the state previously provided.

Wednesday he filed for a continuance. Now the trial is set to for the week of March 14-18.

Perkinson said most cases go to trial 60 days after an arraignment, but this was was to go within 45 days. That was simply too ambitious, Perkinson said.

Pushing the trial back, he explained, will allow him to present the best defense he can.

“You only get one shot,” Perkinson said, “and you have to make sure you do all your homework before you step into court.”

Gushwa took a leave from his office in August 2010 while the justice department investigated him. Gushwa continues to receive almost $9,600 a month in state salaries and benefits while on leave.

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