Sheriff denies lying about Goldschmidt's sex abuse


A sheriff entangled in the political scandal of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt officially told state investigators on Thursday there is no credible evidence that he lied to the public about Goldschmidt sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto also repeated his claims that the media has rushed to judgment about his involvement in the scandal that became public in May 2004 with the revelation that Goldschmidt had abused the girl while he was mayor of Portland in the 1970s.

Giusto complained of "inaccurate and misleading reporting" and "an insatiable appetite for scandal" in his 71-page response to an investigation by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which is responsible for certifying police officers.

The agency released more than 3,000 pages of exhibits on Thursday from its preliminary investigation of Giusto. The documents included a 107-page transcript of an interview with two state investigators who repeatedly asked Giusto about his relationships with Goldschmidt, former Goldschmidt speechwriter Fred Leonhardt and Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Leonhardt claims Giusto first told him about the abuse in 1989, when Giusto was part of the Oregon State Police security detail for Goldschmidt as governor.

In the transcript, Giusto denies he had that conversation, saying rumors are part of politics and it was unlikely he discussed any individual rumor with Leonhardt.

"Mr. Leonhardt has said that you and he had a conversation at a restaurant one time which involved a discussion between you and him about Neil Goldschmidt engaging in some misconduct with a female minor," the investigator asked in the transcript.

Giusto replied: " ... rumors abounded. So the fact that I took any &

made any &

took any energy to talk to Fred about any topic relative to this or anything else is frankly just in his imagination."

But Giusto did suggest the abuse "was widely known in very powerful circles ... "

The sheriff, however, was careful to distance himself from any responsibility for investigating the rumor, noting "there was never a police report taken, never a (district attorney) action initiated."

In a June 8 letter to John Minnis, director of the public safety department, Leonhardt repeated what he has said to investigators and to reporters about the conversation with Giusto.

Leonhardt said Giusto suggested they have breakfast at a Salem restaurant in September 1989, shortly after Giusto had transferred out of the governor's office.

"It was there that he (Giusto) told me that Goldschmidt, while mayor of Portland in the 1970s, had raped his children's 14-year-old babysitter," Leonhardt said in the letter.

Leonhardt said it was clear the source of the information was Margie Goldschmidt, who has denied having an affair with Giusto despite persistent rumors.

Leonhardt went on to say "there are two people responsible for my gradual realization that Neil Goldschmidt was a pedophile. One was obviously Bernie Giusto. The other was Ted Kulongoski."

Leonhardt repeated his claim that Giusto told him during a holiday party in 1994 the sexual abuse would be made public by a newspaper and Leonhardt immediately took Kulongoski aside and informed him.

Kulongoski has repeatedly denied the conversation or that he was ever told about the abuse before it finally became public with a report by the Portland alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week in May 2004.

In a 44-page transcript of an interview with Margie Goldschmidt, the ex-wife of the former governor, she denied that Giusto may have used his knowledge about the sexual abuse to blackmail Neil Goldschmidt.

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Margie Goldschmidt told a state investigator.

She also declined to discuss her conversations with Giusto, saying "I'm not going to talk to you about whatever I may or may not have said to Bernie."

But Margie Goldschmidt did complain about Leonhardt's characterization of her former husband as a "pedophile," saying it "really makes me unhappy because Neil is not a pedophile in any way, shape or form. This is one incident ... there was nobody else ... "

The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training investigation also involves two other allegations that Giusto lied to the public. A draft report of the investigation issued last month said the agency is also reviewing whether Giusto misrepresented his involvement with the wife of Jim Jeddeloh, a former member of a Portland crime commission, and his handling of a concealed weapons permit requested by Jeddeloh.

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