January 2011

Demanding Accountability

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Matthew Berg
Tried, Extorted, Put-Away
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By Edward Snook
Investigative Journalist

Matthew Berg Fishing
Matthew Berg with a 53lb. Chinook
Salmon on the Rogue River

41- year-old Matthew Berg of Keno, Oregon was shocked when he was arrested in October of 2006. A troubled and jealous, soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Mandy Lehner of Klamath Falls had called the police, making false assault allegations against him just one day earlier. Lehner was outraged that Berg was with another woman and that he had stopped supporting her. Based on Lehner's false accusation, resulting from leading questions by Klamath County Deputy Jess Stennett, Berg was charged with multiple felonies and jailed. Read on - the rest of this tragedy is almost unbelievable.

Klamath County Deputy Sheriff Jess Stennett wrote in his Probable Cause Statement, “On Saturday 10-28-06 Matthew Berg hit the victim with a open fist approximately 10 times, hit the victim with a table leg, a belt, and a closed fist repeatedly through the night. He also strangled the victim with his hand by covering her mouth and nose and by restricting her airway by clamping his hands around the victim's neck. In addition, the victim attempted to escape but Berg captured her outside of the house and drug her back in.”

Matthew Berg is a burly 200 lb. man and the alleged victim Mandy Lehner weighed approximately 110-115 lbs. back in 2006. If Berg would have done what Stennett claimed that he did, Lehner would have ended up in the intensive care unit at the local hospital. Just after the alleged incident, when Stennett questioned Lehner, she didn't have a mark on her. This writer has witnessed many police reports over the years that contained outright lies, but never any that compare to Stennett's. I wonder what excuse Stennett will offer down the road, when he has to explain his lies – when he explains how Berg assaulted Lehner with such brutality, leaving no marks and even more bizarre, how Berg did all this to Lehner when he wasn't even with her that night back in 2006?

Matthew Berg went to trial on July 18, 2007. Berg's trial had barely commenced when he was coerced, or more precisely, he was blackmailed into accepting a plea-bargain, requiring him to plead guilty to attempted murder, kidnaping in the first degree and assault in the second degree. Klamath County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Sharon Forster told Berg and his attorney Donald Scales of Medford, Oregon that she was going to file charges against his mother, daughter and sister if he didn't plead. Matthew Berg accepted the plea-bargain… His attorney did nothing. Scales, in this writer's well qualified opinion, went beyond ineffective assistance of council – he assisted the corrupt prosecutor in sending an innocent to prison.

Klamath County Courthouse
Klamath County Courthouse

Berg was sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 19, 2007, by Judge Marci W. Adkisson – 180 months in a prison cell for crimes he did not commit. This corrupt judge clearly became part of the conspiracy against Berg the moment she sentenced him. Adkisson knew prior to accepting Berg's plea, that the alleged victim Mandy Lehner wanted to recant her lies and tell the truth.

The US~Observer accepted the Berg case after this innocent man was already in prison. After conducting an extensive investigation, it became clear that the crimes Berg allegedly committed were not supported by the evidence and witnesses' statements. It was further evident that Berg had been “grossly overcharged” - a tactic prosecutors often unconstitutionally utilize to ensure a plea bargain - Berg went to trial facing 14 separate crimes. When Berg refused to accept their original “deals” of incarceration for 10 months, his prosecution was put in overdrive. Even when Mandy Lehner wanted to recant and tell the truth, this malicious wielding of injustice by the prosecutor continued, even escalated.

This Enraged the Prosecutor and She Resorted to Threatening the Alleged Victim

Forster used her position and authority to bully and intimidate potential defense witnesses with threats of prosecution for perjury, which resulted in their refusal to appear and testify in spite of the fact they had been subpoenaed by defense counsel. And just as condemning, the defense attorney did absolutely nothing to compel his subpoenaed witnesses presence in court in order to protect his clients 6th Amendment rights. This bullying extended to the alleged victim, who made it clear that she wanted to recant her story and tell the truth on the stand about what had actually not occurred between her and Berg. This enraged the prosecutor and she resorted to threatening the alleged victim with prosecution for perjury and filing a false police report if she changed her story. She threatened the alleged victim as she was attempting to testify on the witness stand with, “Remember the perjury, M___.” Forster failed to reveal to the defense, the court and the jury that concessions regarding other charges had been granted to the alleged victim in exchange for her testimony against Berg.

“I'll Prosecute Your Mother, Sister and Daughter if You Don't Plead Guilty”
- Assistant DA Sharon Forster

The following facts are taken from depositions and the record prior to the Post Conviction Relief Hearing:

• Forster made the comment at one pre-trial hearing that she hoped everything the state brought out at trial would be prejudicial against the defendant (Berg).

• The prosecutor asserted she had 36 charges for witness tampering based upon jail telephone conversations between Berg and family members; and that she would file them one at a time, each time Berg's attorney attempted to bail him out of jail – and that Berg would never get out. After listening to Matthew Berg's tape-recorded jail telephone conversations, it becomes clear they do not support the plethora of charges threatened by the Deputy D.A.

• The Klamath County District Attorney brought additional false charges against the defendant on July 16, 2007 (2 days before trial) in order to place Berg back in jail and Forster appeared at the jail to prevent Matthew Berg from exercising his right to bail out. Berg had been released on bail for approximately 2-3 weeks prior to the new false charges.

• On the morning of trial, the prosecutor amended the indictment alleging an unrelated bad-faith allegation of burglary and theft against Berg, when the evidence actually supported the conclusion that the purported victim had committed the acts, regarding the theft of her parents' property- coins, cash and blank checks.

• The prosecutor coerced Berg's involuntary plea through threats to bring criminal charges against his mother, his daughter, his sister, and the defense attorney and the defense investigator for witness tampering, when the evidence showed there was no basis for such charges.

• Forster admitted in her deposition that the morning of trial, she had threatened Berg's daughter with prosecution and to make her responsible for the full amount of $150,000 bail and then asked the young mother if she wanted her baby to grow up without her.

• Forster interfered with defense witnesses, causing some of them to fail to show up for trial in defiance of their subpoenas. Forster admitted in her deposition that she had talked with a witness, in the presence of detectives and stated,“I may have told her she was lying, and here's why, here's what I've got that's going to – you're going to face the trial, and if you can stand up to these questions – I don't know. For some reason she decided not to testify, sir.”

• As shown by both the prosecutor's own admissions at deposition and the court records, the alleged victim told a different version of the events that lead to Matthew Berg's arrest and incarceration, to practically everyone she spoke with. Neither the inconsistent statements of the alleged victim, the statements of witnesses, nor the physical evidence supported the charges of attempted murder, kidnaping, or assault 2.

• The alleged victim had approached the defense attorney and his investigator, begging them to protect her from the threats made by ADA Forster that she would be prosecuted if she recanted her previous story, even though her recantation more closely aligned with the evidence.

• Although the alleged victim stated repeatedly that she wanted to recant her previous story at trial, the prosecutor asked the court for a “material witness hold on her,” and wrongfully declared her a “hostile witness,” so the witness was not allowed to leave the court house.

• The prosecutor verbally accused the defense attorney and his investigator of witness tampering, because they were exercising their right to question potential witnesses, including the alleged victim.

• Forster raised hearsay evidence, in violation of the evidence code, case law, and due process. The effect of which was to prejudice the jury with testimony not otherwise admissible (and was untrue), and to not only invite perjury from the witness (alleged victim), but force her into a position to reaffirm previously recanted statements.

• At trial, when the alleged victim tried to tell the jury why she had made false accusations against Matthew Berg, the prosecutor interrupted her and prompted, “Remember, the perjury” (referring to her prior out-of-court threats to prosecute for either perjury or for filing a false police report, if the alleged victim recanted her story). In spite of the prosecutor's threats, part of the alleged victim's testimony negated the basis for the criminal charges in the indictment.

• In her opening statement, the prosecutor, in bad faith, infers the swelling in the alleged victim's face was the result of a beating, when in fact, the prosecutor admitted to others that she knew the swelling was the result of an abscessed tooth. At deposition, when confronted with the lack of physical injury to support the charges, Forster's response was: “It doesn't require something you can see, sir.”

• Part of the plea agreement was that the defendant would waive his right to appeal and would be sentenced immediately. Case law provides that it is misconduct for a prosecutor to require a person to waive their right to appeal. Also, federal court cases provide that a plea coerced under the threat of prosecuting friends or family, is not voluntarily entered.

• The record shows that Matthew Berg had previously refused plea offers of 10 months, but plead no contest, to a sentence of 15 years, stating to the court that he was pleading because the prosecutor had threatened to prosecute his mother, daughter and sister for crimes they did not commit. Case law notes that the voluntariness of a plea bargain requires special scrutiny when a defendant enters a plea to protect family members from prosecution. Judge Adkisson ignored this blatant corruption and Judge Bergman wrote, “Plea was knowing and volunteer, not coerced.” By condoning such blatant corruption (coercion), both judges become just as guilty as Foreman.

Prosecutor Sharon Forster abused her position and took full advantage of her unconstitutional, yet absolute immunity status as a prosecutor in this outrageous miscarriage of justice. Clearly her only goal was to obtain a conviction at the expense of her constitutional duty to seek justice.

Forster's actions throughout the case were such that, had they been perpetrated by an ordinary citizen, they would have constituted the felony crimes of witness tampering, blackmail, extortion and obstruction of justice. Ironically, Forster was guilty of the very conduct for which she threatened to prosecute Berg's family, and the defense attorney and his investigator, who were merely exercising their right to contact and question potential defense witnesses.

Judge Bergman who presided over the Post Conviction Relief case, heard the evidence listed in this article and yet she ruled against Berg. This judge does not possess a conscience or morals. She is factually corrupt and I have a good idea that someone of her ilk got to her before Berg's hearing. Judge Bergman and the other participants in Berg's false conviction will certainly burn in Hell for taking part in the literal ruination of an innocent human being. Berg's attorney Foster Glass of Bend, Oregon stated in a recent phone interview, “I can't begin to understand how this judge overlooked the compelling mountain of evidence we presented to her… We are preparing to file an appeal.”

Berg in Pirson

Matthew Berg, now 45 years old, has sat innocently in prison for the past four years. This is a direct result of evil people with power, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning him for crimes he did not commit – and they will now claim that they have IMMUNITY for their actions. You be the judge… Should we sit back and allow this to take place? Are you beginning to realize that there are two classes of citizens in America today?

There are people like you and I who work hard to provide for our families; we are subject to all laws, we pay outrageous taxes and we are told we are free.

On the other hand there are those who rule over us, who are above the law, who enjoy lavish wages, health care and retirements at our expense, when we can't afford the same for our own. On top of these absurdities, those who rule over us commit crimes against our fellow citizens and then claim they have immunity. The Judicial branch of “our” government then rubber-stamps the immunity, leaving us without the ability to petition our government for “redress of grievances.”

Many proclaim that these are our public servants – I say BS… Please help, donate today.

Or send a check or money order to:

233 Rogue River Hwy PMB 387
Grants Pass, OR 97527

Other Cases of Standing:

Robert Haro
Kevin Driscoll

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