Bail cut in half
Steve Sengezer, grandfather of a Sheridan boy allegedly beaten nearly to death by Michael Abo, his mother’s boyfriend, expressed outrage Wednesday after Yamhill County Circuit Judge Cynthia Easterday cut Abo’s bail from $1 million to $500,000.
That means the 34-year-old suspect, a martial arts enthusiast who became a reserve with the Yamhill Police Department after being fired from the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office, could secure his release by posting $50,000.
“He needs to stay in jail,” Sengezer said after stepping out of the courtroom. “What worries me is, who’s going to be watching him?
“Those monitoring devices can be removed. What’s to keep him from going to the hospital, getting my grandson and finishing it?”
Abo is charged with inflicting brain damage, torn large and small intestines, scrotal bruising, seven broken ribs and extensive bruising of the arms, legs, forehead and pelvic area on the child on two occasions.
The injuries left the 4-year-old fighting for his life at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
Sheridan Fire District medical personnel discovered the badly battered child when they responded to a medical call at Abo’s Northwest Evans Street home in Sheridan on New Year’s Eve.
Deputy Derek Trombla soon joined them, but due to Abo’s background with the sheriff’s department, the case was turned over to McMinnville police for investigation.
The boy, who had been left in Abo’s custody by his mother who worked full-time in Vancouver, Wash., was rushed to OHSU by Life Flight helicopter.
“He’s in critical condition,” District Attorney Brad Berry said Tuesday at a county commissioners’ meeting. “They took him out of pediatric intensive care yesterday. He is expected to live, but there is significant brain damage. It’s ... it’s a tragic case.”
Abo claimed the boy fell down a stairwell. However, the doctor treating him at OHSU said the injuries resulted from blunt force trauma, not from falling down stairs, and were not all inflicted at the same time.
Abo was arrested with the help of an Oregon State Police SWAT unit that broke down a gate with an armored vehicle.
He was booked into the Yamhill County Jail on two counts each of first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mischief, then transferred to the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro due to his local law enforcement background.
Assault I is a Class A felony carrying a lengthy mandatory-minimum prison sentence under Measure 11. Criminal mistreatment is a Class C felony.
Abo is due back in court at 1:20 p.m. Monday. The prosecution is expected to present a grand jury indictment then.
Deputy District Attorney Alicia Eagan argued for maintaining his bail at $1 million, citing the horrific nature of the crime and Abo’s dismal financial and employment prospects. She said he has no job, has no future in law enforcement and faces serious financial difficulties.
Abo’s privately-retained attorney, Mark Cogan of Portland, sought a reduction to $50,000. That would permit him to secure his release by posting $5,000.
“Fifty thousand dollars will insure he will return,” Cogan said. “He will not flee. He has not been convicted of anything and he has faith in the justice system.”
The 1997 Sheridan High graduate, who attended McMinnville High School as a freshman and wrestled for the Grizzlies, has lifelong roots in the area, has never been convicted of a serious crime and would be willing to wear a GPS monitor, he told the court.
Cogan also complained Abo’s detention in Hillsboro, rather than McMinnville, where he once worked as a jail deputy, would pose a hardship.
“There are going to be months of preparation leading up to a trial,” Cogan said, “and Washington County does not permit face-to-face consultation. I need him out.”
Cogan called Abo’s father, Dennis, to the stand in support of the bail reduction bid. The elder Abo, who hired Cogan to handle the defense, told the court $5,000 was as much as he could put up to secure his son’s release.
The boy’s interests were represented by Salem attorney Meghan Bishop, who appeared by speaker phone. She cited the boy’s massive and extensive injuries in opposing any pre-trial release.
“His injuries are tragic,” she told the court. “He will never be the same.”
Bishop also raised issues about Abo’s character and emotional state. She said he has a record of heavy steroid use, is going through a divorce and was under a restraining order at one time.
In addition, an affidavit was submitted indicating Abo had threatened to shoot his wife and a male friend of hers, and had been discovered hiding in a closet while in possession of a firearm.
Easterday said she had more concern about Abo posing a public safety risk than a flight risk. She said that justified a high bail. However, she ordered it cut to $500,000.
If Abo ends up securing his release, Bishop asked that he be ordered to wear a GPS monitor and avoid all contact with children. Eagan asked that he be required to return all police equipment issued to him by the Yamhill Police Department.
Easterday agreed to those stipulations. She also said he would be barred from possessing a firearm.