Court overturns Roseburg inmate's escape conviction

Court overturns Roseburg inmate's escape conviction
Aaron Frank Cadger, 23, in his most recent Douglas County Jail booking photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals has overturned the escape conviction of an inmate who walked away from a job shoveling manure at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. The reasoning: The fairgrounds isn't a correctional facility.

Aaron Cadger of Roseburg was serving a 60-day sentence for a probation violation and was assigned to a work detail at the fairgrounds in September 2010 when his girlfriend arrived at the facility and he left in her car.

Police found the 20-year-old Cadger in California and returned him to Douglas County. He was charged with escaping from a correctional facility.

Cadger disputed that charge, arguing that the fairgrounds doesn't fit the definition of a correctional facility, defined in Oregon law as "any place used for the confinement of persons charged with or convicted of a crime or otherwise confined under a court order."

A trial court judge in Douglas County denied his motion for an acquittal.

Prosecutors argued Cadger was still within a "correctional facility," even if he wasn't physically in a jail or prison. They relied on a 1994 Appeals Court decision in which a defendant left his house during a 90-day home detention sentence.

But the Appeals Court ruled Wednesday that case was different from Cadger's, because the inmate's "cell" was his house and he was told he could not leave.

Cadger argued that he was instead on temporary release at the fairgrounds, and should face the lesser charge of unauthorized departure.

The Appeals Court agreed with him, citing an earlier case of a similar nature, when an inmate was dropped off to work at a local animal shelter under supervision of the workers there, and walked away.

"Defendant in the present case was authorized to leave the jail, for work at the fairgrounds, and he did not 'abscond while under the direct supervision of a law enforcement official,'" Appeals Court Judge Lynn Nakamoto wrote.

Cadger has been arrested and booked into the Douglas County Jail on various charges 14 times since September of 2010, according to the Douglas County Jail website.

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