Judge Greg Baxter on Monday denied a former Baker City Council member’s request that the judge reconsider a third-degree criminal mischief conviction against him.
Adam Nilsson, 48, told the judge that he was misled into accepting a plea agreement for which he was sentenced on Nov. 20, 2018.
“It was so difficult for me to lie to the court by pleading guilty,” he told Baxter.
Nilsson said he agreed to accept the agreement that called for him to plead guilty to one count of third-degree criminal mischief, a Class C misdemeanor, with a second charge of criminal trespassing with a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor, to be dismissed, on certain conditions.
The charges arose from an Aug. 1, 2017, incident in which Nilsson and his friend, Ashley E. Schroder of Portland, were both charged with trespassing at the abandoned, and since dismantled, cement plant at Lime. Nilsson also was charged with criminal mischief for painting graffiti at the site.
Sheriff’s Department officers Gabe Maldonado and Jef Van Arsdall arrested the two and held them in handcuffs at the site for several hours, Nilsson says.
“My entire life has been upturned and upended for something that amounted to a traffic ticket,” he told Baxter.
As a result of the incident and an August 2017 search of his home at 307 Hillcrest Drive, Nilsson has filed a $1.3 million lawsuit against Baker County and Sheriff Travis Ash.
Nilsson said he and Schroder should have been told to move on or even cited and released like others who stopped at Lime to view artwork painted on the decaying structures at the site.
“I never considered committing a crime at Lime,” he said.
Nilsson told Baxter that he accepted the plea bargain because he believed at the time that a charge of second-degree criminal trespassing against Schroder would be dismissed. Instead, she was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to the charge through her attorney, Christopher Bocci of Salem. The crime was reduced from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A violation and Schroder was fined $100.
Nilsson stated that he also had understood that his time serving on the Baker City Council and the Public Arts Commission would satisfy the community service portion of his sentence and that his concealed weapons permit would be returned to him after the sentencing.
Nilsson said District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff refused to accept the time he spent on City Council and on the Arts Commission and instead issued an order for Nilsson to show why he was not in violation of his probation agreement for not completing his public service requirement.
And Sheriff Ash declined to reinstate his concealed weapons permit, citing Oregon law, which prohibits the sheriff from issuing a permit to a person convicted of any crime for four years.
“I was talked into pleading guilty based on a sham,” Nilsson told Baxter.
At the Nov. 20, 2018, sentencing, Nilsson was placed on a year’s probation with a 30-day jail sentence to be suspended upon successful completion of probation. He was fined $150, ordered to complete 50 hours of community service work and was ordered to forfeit paint and stencils seized in the case.
District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said he disagreed with “quite a bit” of the claims Nilsson made regarding the plea agreement.
Shirtcliff said Nilsson had a right to a jury trial, although Nilsson told Baxter Monday he was advised against pursuing one.
Baxter explained that he had no authority to make any changes to Nilsson’s conviction at this point.
Baxter told Nilsson, who represented himself in Monday’s proceedings but who was represented by attorney Philip Wasley of La Grande during the November 2018 sentencing, that the proper way to approach the issue would have been to appeal the conviction. The deadline for that action has passed, Baxter said.
“I know what you are asking for,” the judge said. “I don’t have the authority to grant it.”
Baxter also denied Nilsson’s request to order the Sheriff’s Department to return the paint and stencils confiscated during the search of his property.