Former officer weeps at trial

A former Medford police officer on trial for perjury sobbed on the witness stand while recounting alleged verbal abuse from his superior officer — a man the defendant claims was making sexual advances toward his girlfriend.

The state alleges Joshua Danrich, a 12-year veteran of the Medford Police Department, was fired in January 2010 because he lied under oath about receiving a distracting phone call from his girlfriend that he said caused him to turn down the wrong street while responding to a routine nuisance call in August 2009.

Danrich is facing a felony charge of perjury and a misdemeanor charge of false swearing because his lie allowed him to receive $12,818 in unemployment benefits, said Jodee Jackson, a special prosecutor from Douglas County.

Danrich took the stand on the second and last day of testimony in the case and said his supervisor, Lt. Greg Lemhouse, lambasted him during a performance review in September 2008.

"He said 'You're f—-ed. You're a piece of s—-," Danrich said before breaking down in tears.

After a 10-minute break called by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Tim Gerking, Danrich continued.

"(Lemhouse) went on to say all the administrators hated me. And that's why I'd never been promoted, and that's why I never would be," Danrich said. "It was harsh. I felt like that put the target on me. I felt marked."

Danrich's attorney, Peter Carini, told the jury in opening arguments that his client was fired because he had the audacity to complain that Lemhouse — an Ashland city councilman and his supervisor — was hitting on Tia Jaggers, whom Danrich was dating and later married.

Jaggers testified Lemhouse sent her a text message asking her to go away with him on a weekend training exercise in Salem.

"I didn't respond," Jaggers said. "Josh thought (Lemhouse) was making a play."

Lemhouse has denied the allegations.

Danrich is being criminally persecuted because MPD's top officials are angry his client won his battles to receive his unemployment benefits, and because Danrich is still fighting to regain his job, Carini said.

"You branded him a liar. You dealt a death blow to his career," Carini said during cross-examination of Deputy Chief Tim George. "That's going to be very embarrassing to (the department) if you have to take him back."

George agreed, saying if the MPD is forced to return Danrich to service, it must by law notify both prosecutors and defense attorneys that it believes Danrich to be an untruthful officer.

"There's a term in our business, 'If you lie, you die,'" George said.

George said he recommended Danrich be fired because Danrich lied after botching a call. Medford resident Thelma Thompson called 9-1-1 on Aug. 28, 2009, saying she feared a stench in her neighborhood was caused by a meth lab. Danrich initially responded to the low-priority call by cruising the area and determining the smell was fertilizer, not methamphetamine. After Thompson complained no one responded, Danrich was told to return.

Jackson scoffed at Danrich's insistence he'd been distracted by a phone call from Jaggers, despite phone records to the contrary.

"Your statement (about the phone call) was false," Jackson told Danrich.

"I did not know it was false when I made it," Danrich said.

George said Danrich lied to his superiors about whether he drove past Thompson's home once or twice, and then fabricated a story about a distracting "phantom" phone call that caused him to turn down the wrong street.

"He wasn't where he was supposed to be, and he wasn't doing what he was supposed to do," George said. "And he lied about the phone call."

Chief Randy Schoen agreed with George that lying cannot be tolerated in a police officer.

"Trust is the currency of our relationship (with the public)," Schoen said. "Credibility is a job requirement."

Carini questioned Schoen about the investigation that was conducted after Danrich complained to Lt. Bob Hansen that Lemhouse had been verbally abusive toward him during his evaluation.

Schoen, who described Lemhouse as "a hard worker, ambitious to advance," replied, "We were not able to ascertain who was telling the truth."

Carini pressed Schoen to explain why the department had initiated five investigative hearings about whether Danrich had been distracted by a call, but had failed to similarly investigate Danrich's allegations about Lemhouse.

"Was there any hearing? Was there no further investigation?" Carini said.

Carini also called another of Danrich's former supervisors, Jackson County Sheriff's Lt. Robert Sergi. Sergi, who said he left the MPD because he wasn't "treated fairly," considered Danrich to be a truthful officer even though he had reprimanded Danrich for failure to respond and for another infraction during his time as a supervisor with the MPD.

"I never knew him to shirk an error," Sergi said. "He always took responsibility for his actions."

But Lemhouse's star was rising within the organization. And Danrich's was not, Sergi said.

"It was pretty well-known that (Danrich) was not a favorite son," he said.

Closing arguments will begin this morning.

Sanne Specht is a reporter at the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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