By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Another assault challenges system

It was disturbing enough to read about young men engaged in a drunken early-morning brawl in downtown McMinnville, and immeasurably worse because it ended in a senseless death that marred the lives of so many people.

This week’s story from downtown McMinnville was even more alarming. It involved a daytime sexual assault, stranger-to-stranger, inside a downtown store, perhaps following days of surreptitious observation.

If true, and police accounts seem to leave little question, the case will resonate to the depths of Oregon’s clearly challenged systems of incarceration and rehabilitation.

Trinidad Dario Padilla, 44, long-time resident of Willamina, was on post-prison supervision for his 2010 conviction of attempted first-degree rape. He was living in subsidized housing at the county jail and free to roam the streets during the day. His 2010 plea bargain to “attempted rape” allowed him to escape a lengthy Measure 11 sentence, as charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault were dropped.

Padilla served three years of his 56-month sentence. At trial, he asked if he could spend his 10 years of post-prison supervision in California — how unfortunate that couldn’t be arranged.

I don’t know if he was released early for good behavior or because Oregon’s prison system is overcrowded, with early-release programs today’s answer to budget shortfalls. It would appear that whoever assessed Padilla’s fitness to return to society badly misjudged the situation.

Our records recount his 2001 conviction for menacing and attempted kidnapping related to domestic assault. Then, nothing until his October 2009 arrest for sexual contact with a girl under the age of 15. Here’s what happened, according to our story of his trial and sentencing:

“Padilla’s wife was at work and their daughter had walked to church, leaving the victim and defendant alone in the residence, according to Steele’s investigative summary of the case. Padilla then walked to a nearby store, purchased beer and a box of condoms, returned home and had sex with the girl.”

The girl’s mother said she suffered from diminished mental capacity. Padilla’s attorney said he suffered from a form of mental retardation, and that the plea-bargained sentence was “balanced” in light of the circumstances. Whatever the justice system’s concerns about “balance” in 2010, I assume it will be less inclined to cut a favorable deal for Padilla in 2013.

Rehabilitation? It’s a four-bit word that too often means nothing in the world of hard-core sexual offenders. This case, and others like it, are what keep justice system folks up at night.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.

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