By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
Published: Monday, May 03, 2010, 9:20 PM
Bruce Ely/The OregonianCanby businessman William Jake Traverso (center) appeared in court in Clackamas County in March. Prosecutor Michael Wu is on the left, and Traverso’s attorney John Henry Hingson III is to the right.
A federal inquiry into steroid abuse by a Canby officer and a cover-up by his chief has stretched to other law enforcement agencies, thanks to the cooperation of man who supplied the steroids: Canby resident William J. Traverso, who has admitted to selling steroids to other officers in the Portland area.
Traverso, one of the central figures in the Canby steroid abuse inquiry that put former Officer Jason Deason in jail and spurred Chief Greg Kroeplin’s resignation, sought a lenient sentence Monday because he’s been helping the FBI.
The federal investigation already has prompted the resignation of four law enforcement officers who also have lost their police certification — Deason, Kroeplin, Washington County narcotics dog handler Jared Gochenour and West Linn Officer Jess Riley.
Riley, who formerly worked as a Milwaukie officer, resigned from West Linn on April 9.
The federal inquiry also has led to the questioning of Portland Sgt. Charles Brown, who lives in Canby and whose late father was a retired Canby school superintendent. Portland police have been ordered not to talk about the federal investigation involving Brown.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything,” Brown said Monday.
In a letter submitted to a Clackamas County judge Monday, FBI Special Agent Christopher Frazier said that Traverso has discussed his drug distribution activities in detail. “The public safety employees identified by Traverso included law enforcement officers, corrections officers, fire and rescue personnel and university public safety officers,” Frazier wrote, “Several spin-off FBI public corruption investigations were initiated as a result of these allegations, and are ongoing.”
Traverso’s attorney John Henry Hingson III urged the court to reward his client for his cooperation by sentencing him to community service. He criticized the district attorney’s office and the City of Canby for letting Kroeplin resign with a payout and not face prosecution. He also urged the court to consider the danger Traverso could face behind bars. “Deason has one strike against him in jail. He’s an ex-cop,” Hingson said. “Traverso has two strikes against him. He’s a snitch, and he’s somebody that fingered cops.”
Hingson argued that the judge doesn’t have to hold a harsh sentence over his client’s head. He said Traverso is still willing to help “clean up” law enforcement in the Portland area.
“People who are using steroids and packing Glocks…” Hingson said, “I cannot think of a more frightening thing in terms of the safety of the public.”
Hingson referred to a July 1985 shooting by then-Clackamas County jailer, Glenn D. Woolstrum, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he abducted, shot and paralyzed a woman who worked at a feed store at Wanker’s Corner. The woman had joked about deputies frequently using the store phone when Woolstrum asked to make a call. Woolstrum’s attorney argued that his client’s actions were “aberrant” acts caused by steroid use.
Clackamas County deputy district attorney Michael Wu argued that Traverso should spend 30 days in jail, saying Traverso’s neighbors suffered because of the around-the-clock drug activity at his home. The neighbors complained that they had been ignored by Canby police. Further, Traverso was arrested for driving high on methamphetamine as he was speeding to a September court hearing in this case, and agents learned he had bought stolen guns from two men who burglarized a home in Sherwood. He pleaded guilty to delivery of controlled substance, driving under the influence of intoxicants and theft. “Mr. Traverso’s crimes and effect on the community deserve a jail sanction,” Wu said.
Hingson said Traverso, 39, began using steroids for competitive body building, and he attained the title of “Mr. Oregon.” But the story of a local Canby boy making good was shattered when he cheated and used steroids to attain his bodybuilding physique, and became addicted to methamphetamine.
After federal agents searched Traverso’s home and his parents’ business in July 2008, Canby Landscape Supply, Traverso admitted to the FBI he helped Deason acquire steroids and human growth hormone. He also provided agents a letter Deason had written to him April 30, 2002 on Canby Police stationery, placing a steroid order. Traverso also told agents Deason had tipped him off to an internal police investigation into Deason’s steroid abuse in 2001, and coached Traverso on how to answer any police questions. If he was asked if he knew anything about Deason’s steroid use, Traverso was to answer, “No I don’t know, ask him yourself,” Deason told him, according to a FBI document.
Clackamas County Judge Douglas V. Van Dyck said Traverso must recognize the hurt he caused his community. He ordered Traverso to turn himself into the Clackamas County jail on Friday, for a 15-day jail sentence, followed by 30 days electronic home detention and 24 months probation.
The judge also applauded Traverso for helping to identify officers who were buying the illegal steroids. “Good, that’s the way it should be, because this community should stand no corruption in those charged to uphold the law,” the judge said. “When a police officer operates outside the law, one or two, it can undermine the noble work of thousands of officers.”