By Edward Snook
Clackamas County, OR - The last thought on 17 year old Sierra Brownlow’s
mind while she was walking down 122nd Avenue on a sunny June afternoon to
meet a friend, was that she was about to be dragged through a six-month long
nightmare at the hands of the Clackamas County Juvenile Department and Circuit
Court Judge Deanne Darling.
Sierra was heading to the Safeway parking lot located at 122nd and Sunnyside
Road in Clackamas, Oregon to meet a friend on June 11, 2012 when a car driven
by Ashley Dalton pulled up beside her with two passengers, Skye Petrzenski
Iverson. According to witnesses, Iverson leaned out of the car and began
shouting obscenities at Sierra.
Iverson was part of an alleged gang of bullies who had been reportedly harassing
Sierra at school for most of the previous year. Unknown to Sierra, Iverson
had called Keasha “Katy” Neil, another girl who had been allegedly
bullying Sierra, to come to the Safeway and “take care of Sierra.”
Sierra was in the Safeway parking lot behind her friend Chelsea Carroll’s
car when Ms. Neil came charging out of nowhere towards them, screaming threats
as she approached.
Sierra said, “I knew Neil was hunting me down after she called and
texted me. The next thing I see is Neil running towards me with a crazed
look in her eyes and her fists cocked. I just knew I was in for a serious
beating. I only had a few seconds to figure out what to do, but knew I didn’t
want to be trapped behind Chelsea’s car, especially since I had no
idea where the other three girls were. I took a few steps towards Neil to
slow her momentum and defend myself, but it was not enough to stop her attack.”
Little did Sierra know that getting stalked and attacked by a gang of high
school bullies was going to be the least of her problems.
Clackamas County Deputies R. Stewart and B. Jensen arrived on the scene
shortly after some bystanders had broken up the fight. Neil had a visible
bruise on her face and told the deputies that Sierra started the fight. According
to one witness, the deputies made it immediately clear they did not like
Sierra and refused to interview several key witnesses or collect any evidence
other than the initial lies they received from Neil and Iverson. After a
very brief and completely inadequate investigation, they arrested Sierra,
charged her with Assault IV and took her to jail. Sierra was released to
the custody of her mother.
Nothing happened for several months until Sierra and her father David Brownlow
were called in for a meeting on September 12, 2012 with Merin Paldi, who
represented herself as a Clackamas County juvenile counselor.
At the start of the meeting Paldi informed Sierra that she was going to
be charged with Assault IV and Harassment, which would total 18 months in
jail, but that if Sierra “worked” with Paldi she would try to
make Sierra’s probation as short as possible – with Paldi as
her probation officer. Ms. Paldi then read the police report, where Sierra
learned for the first time that Neil had accused her of stopping the car
driven by Dalton, where she pulled Neil from the car and started the fight.
Sierra immediately told Paldi that Ms. Neil was the aggressor and was not
even in the car driven by Dalton. Paldi replied that it was too late to bring
up any evidence and ordered Sierra to appear the following Monday at a hearing
to discuss the charges.
That evening Sierra reached out to Skye Petrzenski, one of the girls who
had been riding in Dalton’s car. Petrzenski and Sierra had never met
before, but Skye came forward immediately and told the truth of what happened,
saying, “Sierra was totally innocent. I was in that car with Iverson
and Dalton and I can assure you that Neil was not in the car with us. I heard
Iverson call Neil from the car to set up the attack on Sierra. I was best
friends with Neil, but I was not about to let Sierra get punished for something
she didn’t do.”
“Skye is my hero.” said Mr. Brownlow, “The state’s
case was obliterated the minute she came forward and told the truth. Skye’s
only motivation from the beginning was to do everything possible to proclaim
Sierra’s innocence and help get the charges dropped.”
Petrzenski subsequently signed an affidavit wherein she stated that Neil
and Dalton staged the whole event, and that she heard Neil bragging after
the attack that the reason she only hit Sierra on the top of the head was
so there would be no bruises on her, assuring that Sierra would be the only
Mr. Brownlow called Paldi the next day and told her that Petrzenski had
come forward with some very compelling testimony that Neil and Iverson had
lied to the police. This was followed up with an email that included Petrzenski’s
affidavit attesting to Sierra’s innocence. Brownlow said, “Paldi
was not even slightly interested in discovering the truth of what really
happened. Paldi had made up her mind that she was going to pound a guilty
verdict out of Sierra and seemed majorly ticked off that I dared to stand
in the way of another notch on her belt. ”
Sierra and her father attended the September 17, 2012 hearing and brought
along Ms. Carroll and Petrzenski. While waiting for the hearing to start
Paldi served Sierra and Mr. Brownlow with the charging papers for Assault
and Harassment. “That woman made no attempt to hide her disdain for
me behind a sarcastic smile as she tossed the indictment at me. It was definitely
an, ‘I’ll show you!’ moment.” Sierra’s father
Dave Brownlow stated, “I knew things were going to get really ugly.”
Judge Deanne Darling
When called to the bench, Mr. Brownlow told Judge Deanne Darling that he
had witnesses in the courtroom, including one of the girls from the car,
who were ready to testify that the police report was a complete fiction.
He then asked Deputy District Attorney Cara Graham to do an actual investigation
before things went any further, because no one from the county had ever interviewed
the key witnesses he brought to the hearing. Graham did not comment, but
Judge Darling said it was too late for any witness interviews or evidence
and that anything Sierra wanted to say would have to wait until trial. She
released Sierra to her father with some very strict release conditions.
Mr. Brownlow said after the hearing, “All the DA had to support their
case was the bogus police report I had already shot full of holes. The
DA had failed to interview a single witness or check a single fact before
filing the false charges. Unfortunately for my daughter, Judge Darling
and Merin Paldi were on a total power trip and clearly did not like me challenging
their reckless behavior. They had Sierra in their sights and nothing
was going to stop them. It was a Kangaroo court by any definition.”
Rather than go down the lawyer path to financial ruin as demanded by the
judge, Mr. Brownlow hired the US Observer to investigate Sierra’s case.
US~OBSERVER ENTERS CASE
On October 6, 2012, Investigator Joseph Snook and this writer traveled to
the scene of the incident to collect evidence and interview witnesses. After
a thorough investigation I easily concluded that Sierra was innocent of all
charges and that the state’s witnesses had clearly lied to the police.
I then contacted Clackamas County DA John Foote, laid out the evidence and
facts, stating that this was a case of clear and compelling innocence and
asked Foote to drop the false charges against Sierra. On October 17, 2012,
I received a call from Cara Graham, the Deputy DA who was handling the case
Graham assured me she would look into Sierra’s case. Graham stated
that she would go over the facts with Sierra’s attorney as soon as
one was appointed her.
Just before Sierra was to obtain an attorney, her case took a hard turn
into the world of the surreal.
On October 24, 2012 Paldi came to Sierra’s school and served her a
summons to appear at a hearing the next day over an alleged truancy violation.
Sierra went to the hearing and again brought Petrzenski, who was ready to
testify that Neil and Iverson had staged the whole attack and lied about
it to the police. Judge Darling refused to let Petrzenski speak and
instead scolded Sierra for hanging around Petrzenski, who has had previous
appearances before the court. Rather than discuss the merits of the state’s
case, Judge Darling proceeded to focus on Sierra’s attendance record.
Sierra had been sick the week before the hearing with a respiratory infection
and had missed a few days of school. Even though Mr. Brownlow had excused
Sierra for those days per school policy, and even though she had a prescription
from her doctor dated at the time of her absence, Judge Darling said, she
knew BS when she smelled it and refused to believe Sierra had been sick.
Darling asked Paldi for a recommendation of what should be done to Sierra
for missing school. Paldi replied that Sierra should be incarcerated.
Darling declared that Sierra had violated the release order and threatened
to sentence her to jail for the full year if she was convicted of the assault
charge. Darling then directed a Sheriff’s deputy to take her off to
Dave Brownlow said, “The first time I was allowed to see Sierra in
jail, she came into the visiting room dressed in these way oversized prison
clothes looking like a bag of bones, hunched over and sobbing uncontrollably.
She was absolutely terrified and shaking as she told me they did a full strip
search and cavity check and then threw her in jail with a bunch of hardened
criminals. We both sat there in stunned disbelief that something so horrific
could have happened to her over such a pack of lies.”
At the point Sierra was arrested, I became quite upset and again spoke with
Graham. She told me that she would get with Sierra’s attorney and that
she was not the one who pushed for Sierra’s arrest.
Sierra remained in jail until the next hearing, which was scheduled for
October 30, 2012. Even after five days in jail, Sierra came into the hearing
with a wide smile and gave her dad the best hug she could while wearing leg
irons and handcuffs. The judge said Sierra could be released on house arrest,
but only if Mr. Brownlow and his fiancée agreed to supervise her and
report any infractions to the court. Mr. Brownlow reluctantly agreed to be
Sierra’s prison warden as there was no other way she was getting out.
DDA Graham subsequently met with Sierra’s newly appointed attorney
Jim Bernstein and asked that he have investigators talk with the driver of
the car, Ashley Dalton.
Things continued to remain stalled. With no progress made toward getting
the false charges dropped, and with Sierra still under house arrest, I instructed
Mr. Brownlow to hire investigator Dean Muchow, a retired police chief, to
interview Dalton, the driver of the car, since nobody from the county had
ever bothered to talk to her, and Graham had requested this.
During the November 9, 2012 Muchow interview, Dalton admitted that Neil
was not in the car, but completely changed the rest of the story. This time
accusing Sierra of stopping her car and attempting to assault Iverson, instead
of Neil as claimed in the police report. After the interview, Dalton called
Petrzenski and bragged that she and the other girls involved had gotten their
stories perfectly straight. Obviously, their web of lies was unraveling very
Brownlow said, “The Muchow interview of Dalton was the clincher to
getting the case dropped. Dean put Dalton in a corner; and she did exactly
what we expected her to do – which was to lie. The DA had no way out
but to drop the charges.”
This interview was forwarded to the court on November 12, 2012, and no action
was immediately taken by DDA Graham. Sierra remained under house arrest until
the false charges were formally dropped on December 3, 2012, which made it
nearly six weeks of incarceration - jail and house arrest combined.
When asked about the experience, Mr. Brownlow stated, “The County
never had a case, yet they went after Sierra with a frightful vengeance;
driving her to the breaking point. The time, emotion and expense these people
put on my family is absolutely huge. Unfortunately, their sadistic schemes
must work a lot of the time because they seemed very confident they would
get Sierra to crack. The really sad part about this is there are many thousands
of other kids falsely charged and jailed like Sierra. But, without professionals,
like Edward and Joseph Snook with the US~Observer on their side, they have
little hope of getting justice. I’ll take a garden-variety mugger any
day over the incompetent, mean-spirited gang of thugs who run our criminal
justice system. It’s a complete mess from top to bottom.” Brownlow
added, “They can be assured this case is far from over.”
Sierra summed it up this way, “I still can’t believe Clackamas
County did this to me and my family. They arrested me, they ridiculed me
in court, they strip-searched me, they threw me in jail and they threatened
me with a lengthy prison term for something I didn’t do. I got fired
from my job, I had to move to a new town and change schools mid-way through
my senior year. Talk about a bad deal. I’m still trying to figure out
why those people were so hell bent on destroying me. Thankfully, my dad found
the US~Observer. Edward Snook, head of investigations, doesn’t mess
around and he took care of it. I am living with my dad and his fiancé now,
and things are going great. I am working with them and my counselors to figure
out the best way to move on from here.”
The US~Observer commends Cara Graham for dropping the false charges. We
also want to make it very clear and public that Clackamas County Sheriff’s
Deputies Stewart and Jensen conducted a completely inadequate investigation – in
other words they failed to conduct an investigation before arresting a then
17-year-old innocent girl.
As for Clackamas County Juvenile Counselor Merin Paldi, this abusive woman
is incompetent and dangerous to innocent juveniles. She caused great harm
to Sierra Brownlow and I promise all who believe in accountability that she
has not heard the last from this writer.
Judge Deanne Darling is vindictive, abusive and she has no business being
a judge. She is dangerous to the innocent and to justice - she needs to be
removed from the bench. While I don’t have the time to insure that
this occurs, I do have the ability and the time to give her a life-sentence
regarding her very bad, abusive and shameful actions publicly. This article
is just the beginning of this process, which I will continue in the next
edition of this newspaper and on the world-wide web at www.usobserver.com.
Don’t miss our next edition wherein we will expose others who took
part in the destructive abuse of Sierra Brownlow.
Editor’s Note: The US~Observer urges anyone with information on Judge
Deanne Darling, Clackamas County Juvenile Counselor Merin Paldi, Olivia Iverson,
Keasha “Katy” Neil and Ashley Dalton to contact Edward Snook
at 541-474-7885 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.