Charges dropped against the son of retired judge

The son of a retired Jackson County Circuit Court judge and a defense attorney will not face charges in a 2008 drugs and weapon case.

The case against Andrew Robert "Drew" Orf is not prosecutable because of search-and-seizure violations that occurred during handling of the case, the Oregon Department of Justice has determined.

His parents say they are proud of their son for turning his life around after the arrest.

Ashland police arrested Orf in a church parking lot last August and cited him on charges of possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school and carrying concealed brass knuckles. Orf's car was impounded and police later found methamphetamine, cocaine, hashish, crushed Xanax and additional marijuana in the vehicle. The car also contained evidence of meth and marijuana manufacturing, police said.

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston referred Orf's case to Josephine County because Rebecca Orf still was a seated circuit court judge for the county at the time of Drew Orf's arrest. His father, David Orf, remains a defense attorney in private practice.

Josephine County prosecutors reviewed the case and determined there were "significant legal search and seizure issues with the case and asked the (DOJ) to review," said Huddleston.

The evidence obtained during the investigation likely would be suppressed, and the state would not have sufficient evidence to proceed on the charges, Michael J. Slauson, a senior assistant attorney general, wrote in a four-page letter dated Jan. 23.

"For that reason, we recommend that those charges be dismissed. Moreover, because the search warrant lacks probable cause to justify the search of Orf's car, we do not believe that there is any admissible evidence that would warrant prosecution for additional drug crimes," Slauson wrote.

Rebecca Orf did not respond to the legality issues. But she said Thursday that her son has struggled with addiction.

"Drew has recently completed a residential drug and alcohol treatment program," she said. "He is currently clean and sober."

Slauson's DOJ review of Drew Orf's case states Ashland police officers Chad Woodward and Matt Caswell contacted the 20-year-old as he headed toward his green Subaru Legacy on East Main Street. A carload of friends had dropped him off in the parking lot of the Ashland Gracepoint Nazarene Church just after 2 a.m. on Aug. 24.

As Caswell questioned one of Orf's friends, Woodward approached Orf, who declined to identify himself. Orf initially accused Woodward of "hassling" him. Orf then apologized and asked if he could leave. Woodward did not respond to Orf's request, instead telling Orf he wanted to know what his partner was doing.

Caswell recognized Orf as the owner of the Subaru. Orf admitted ownership of the vehicle, and that his license was suspended. Orf told officers he wasn't planning to drive, just retrieve a CD from the vehicle. Orf then got in the driver's seat and leaned toward the glove box.

"Caswell, believing that he might be reaching for a weapon, shone his flashlight toward the area and saw a glass marijuana pipe (with residue on it) in the glove box," Slauson said.

Orf denied ownership of the pipe; Caswell demanded Orf turn it over and empty his pockets. Orf was not free to leave, Caswell said. Police repeatedly asked Orf for his consent to search. Orf denied the requests and called his father.

Orf ultimately admitted he had the pipe and more marijuana in his pocket. He was cited for carrying a concealed weapon — which Orf said was actually a belt buckle designed to look like brass knuckles. He also was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Orf's vehicle was impounded in a secured parking area at the Ashland Police Department. Police then obtained a warrant and searched the car.

Orf's initial request to leave should have been acknowledged; Caswell did not have probable cause to arrest Orf or direct him to empty his pockets; and there was not sufficient factual basis for the vehicle search, Slauson concluded.

"Because neither officer responded to Orf and because they lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Orf at that time, the stop likely was unconstitutional. As a result, all evidence obtained during the encounter would be suppressed," wrote Slauson.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said Thursday he was initially disappointed when he read the DOJ report. But he understood why the justice department opted for dismissal and has discussed its findings with his officers, he said.

"I honestly think that it was the right decision to make," Holderness said.

Drug and alcohol addiction impacts the lives of many in our community, Rebecca Orf said. After completing his residency treatment, Drew Orf enrolled in junior college and is working to obtain a behavioral health associate's degree "so that he can become a certified drug and alcohol counselor — and help pay back the community," Rebecca Orf said.

"I am very proud of him," she said. "Treatment works and there is hope."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

Share This Story