By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Court offers deal too good to refuse

“The municipal court is one of education and rehabilitation,” said Kinney, on the bench there each Wednesday. “The Early Resolution Program fits with that goal.”

Eric Calhoun, a 22-year-old Amity resident, was a recent beneficiary. He appeared before Kinney on one count of third-degree theft, a Class C misdemeanor, for stealing the tip jar from the Dutch Bros. kiosk at 1365 N.W. Highway 99W.

Sgt. Tim Symons of the McMinnville police gave this account:

Calhoun and an adult female passenger ordered and received drinks. Then he not only drove off without paying, but grabbed the tip jar as well.

When Calhoun spotted multiple surveillance images of the theft on Facebook, he turned himself in. The barista estimated his tip jar take at $15, but Calhoun said he actually netted less than $6.

Prosecutor Cynthia Kaufman-Noble ruled him eligible for the Early Resolution Program because he had a clean criminal history.

When Kinney called his name, Calhoun stepped forward. He learned that by pleading guilty, paying a $500 fine and making restitution, he could have the charge reduced to a violation, keeping his record clean.

Had Calhoun not taken advantage of the program, he would have faced the possibility of serving 30 days in jail, with a period on probation afterward, being subjected to a significant fine and ending up with a criminal conviction. So he gladly accepted an opportunity to enter into the Early Resolution Program.

“I can’t think of many people who haven’t,” Kinney said. “You only get the one opportunity, and most people want to accept responsibility for their actions. Typically, these people have not had any interaction with the legal system in any way.

“By accepting the conditions, they know how much they are going to be fined and it’s complete. Restitution is important, too, so people who have been harmed are made whole. It’s good for people to step up and take responsibility.”

Kinney said the benefits of the program are two-fold. The defendant takes responsibility for the crime and the case is resolved quickly, without the individual serving jail time and being placed on probation.

The city does not pay the cost of a court-appointed attorney, which it would be required to do if the case proceeded as a misdemeanor through the legal system and the individual was not financially able to retain private counsel.

“What we’re not trying to do is take away anyone’s rights,” Kinney said. “A defendant has the right to take the case further.”

Kinney said he thinks the Early Resolution Program is an example of the fine work municipal court is doing. He is the board vice-president of the Oregon Municipal Judges Association, and said he routinely fields questions about programs operated by the local court.

“I’d like to do more,” he said. “I love to help other courts.”

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