ALBANY, Ore. — A trial started Tuesday morning at the Linn County Courthouse for a Lebanon teenager who is accused of assaulting a man with cerebral palsy.
The Linn County District Attorney’s Office argues that 20-year-old Jesse Jimenez and his friend assaulted 49-year-old Ronald Whitehead in August. Jimenez’s friend, 18-year-old Trevin King, pleaded guilty to assault in the second degree and no contest to robbery in the first degree in February. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.
On Tuesday, attorneys spent hours selecting a 12-person jury in the case against Jimenez, who is also facing charges of second degree assault and first degree robbery. Before the two sides presented their opening arguments, Judge Daniel Murphy addressed the jury.
“The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the defendant is not evidence,” he said. “The defendant is innocent of any crime unless and until the state proves the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In her opening statements, Prosecutor Heidi Sternhagen argued that Jimenez helped King with the assault in order to steal Whitehead’s bicycle.
“Trevin King ran after him, grabbed him and started punching him,” she said. “The defendant followed him, watched this and then joined in. And he kicked him, and punched him, and they took the bike.”
The defense argues that though Jimenez was with King at the time of the assault, he did not participate.
“Mr. Jimenez was away from where this was occurring,” said Defense Attorney Forrest Reid during his opening statements. “He saw what was occurring; went over to where it was occurring. Mr. Jimenez is going to say that he was yelling at this time at Trevin King to get off of him and to knock it off; ‘don’t do that.’ Then he grabbed King and said: ‘Come on, lets go.’”
Both sides agree that King assaulted Whitehead. The question is whether Jimenez participated in the assault, and if the state can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Ronald Whitehead basically lives in a hospital bed with a mesh canopy around him to prevent him from falling out,” Sternhagen said.
On Tuesday, several witnesses took the stand, including William Tacy, who found Whitehead.
“I found a person bleeding in the parking lot,” he told the jury.
Tacy called 911, and Lebanon Police Officer Joseph Staub responded. He also took the stand on Tuesday.
“He (Whitehead) was clearly badly injured,” Staub said. “He was bleeding from his face and head. He was laying and not responsive. I tried talking to him to get his attention and he wasn’t responding.”
Police took pictures when they first saw Whitehead, which the state presented on Tuesday as evidence.
“His face was very swollen,” Staub said. “His face appeared to be smashed in.”
Whitehead’s family says he will have to spend the rest of his life in a care facility. Family members say he is unable to swallow, and the right side of his body is paralyzed.
The trial is set to continue Wednesday morning at the Linn County Courthouse.