The Oregonian, June 18, 1996, pp. B1 & B8

Former Clatsop DA should be disbarred, lawyers' panel rules

  • A disciplinary board of the Oregon State Bar finds Julie Ann Leonhardt forged papers and lied to a grand jury

    By Bryan Smith
    of The Oregonian staff

    The former Clatsop County district attorney convicted of framing two police officers on drug charges should be disbarred, an Oregon disciplinary board has ruled.

    In a sternly worded opinion, the three-member panel of the Oregon State Bar said Julie Ann Leonhardt falsified public records and improperly misused her influence to help clear her fiance' of criminal charges.

    Once caught, the board said, Leonhardt "engaged in a pattern of lies in an attempt to cover up her wrongdoing."

    "She purposely undertook to persecute two innocent police officers, to destroy their credibility and enhance her own stature in the community," the board wrote. "It is difficult if not impossible to calculate the harm done by the accused."

    Leonhardt could not be reached for comment.

    The board's opinion will be forwarded to the Oregon Supreme Court, which makes the final decision.

    [p. B8 jump headline:] Leonhardt: Convictions bring jail time; lawsuit against media fails

    The 40-year-old Leonhardt served 60 days in jail after she was convicted on four counts of forgery for adding false information to the indictments of two Astoria police officers. The indictments against the officers were dropped.

    The convictions were upheld on appeal.

    Leonhardt later sued two newspapers, including The Oregonian, and a television station for more than $62 million for defamation of character. The suits were dismissed.

    The board found that Leonhardt used her influence as district attorney to gain leniency for her fiance' in two traffic matters.

    In the first, the opinion says, Leonhardt, during her first month in office, learned that her fiance', Andrew Overby, was being questioned as a suspect in a hit-and-run accident.

    The opinion says Leonhardt complained to the Gearhart chief of police about the conduct of the officer who detained Overby in a traffic stop.

    In the second case, Leonhardt asked for professional courtesy in considering whether to reduce or dismiss the charge against Overby, a convicted felon on probation, the board wrote.

    Leonhardt claimed she did nothing inappropriate and did not know a conviction for a new crime could affect Overby's probation, the panel said.

    "We unanimously find by clear and convincing evidence that this was a lie," the board wrote. Her claims were "one more example of how far (she) has shown she is willing to go to try to lie her way out of this matter."

    In the case against the officers, Leonhardt told a Clatsop County Grand Jury that officers Tim Thurber and William Stowell had tried to enlist a drug informant in selling drugs, the board said.

    Leonhardt claimed the drug informant worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    While the informant never testified before the grand jury, Leonhardt later altered indictments against the officers to indicate he had.

    Leonhardt denied wrongdoing. The board found otherwise.

    "Put simply, we unanimously find the accused to be totally lacking in credibility and give no weight whatsoever to her testimony," the board wrote.

    The Supreme Court will consider the recommendation and hear arguments. A hearing date has not been set.



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