PENDLETON - A former Umatilla County Jail corrections officer avoided a prison sentence by pleading guilty this morning to helping a female inmate escape last November.

In a change of plea, Jeffrey Allen Luse, 30, of Pendleton, pleaded guilty to second-degree escape, hindering prosecution and tampering with a public record regarding the Nov. 9, 2003, incident. Luse altered jail records to release Melissa Nicole Sherrill, who was in jail on felony charges. She was later apprehended and returned to jail.

Luse's guilty plea came as part of a negotiation with the Umatilla County District Attorney's office. By pleading guilty to the three counts, the prosecution dropped charges of first-degree official misconduct, obstructing governmental or judicial administration, first-degree forgery and another count of second-degree escape.

Judge Garry Reynolds sentenced Luse after his plea. For the second-degree escape charge, a Class C felony, Luse will serve three years probation, 120 hours of community service and pay a $10,000 fine, $6,000 of which will be suspended upon his completion of probation. For hindering prosecution, also a Class C felony, Luse received the same sentence, but with 200 hours of community service.

For the tampering with a public record, a misdemeanor, Luse received two years bench probation, which means he needs to keep the court advised of when his address changes and must obey the law. Upon completion of the two years bench probation, 180 days of jail time will be suspended.

Luse's attorney, Michael Breiling, said Luse should be able to pay the fine with monthly installments in "more or less about a year."

Judge Reynolds told Luse he needed to work to regain the community's trust in him.

"What you did was violate a trust which all the citizens in this county placed in you as a law enforcement officer," Reynolds said. "I trust that you will do everything that you can to not only satisfy everything under your sentence and the law, but to regain the trust of this community."

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