By: Trix E. Lom
Intrepid ReporterTrix E. Lom is no stranger to covering Miss Debbie in teh courthouse:her earlier dispatches covered Frisch's first sentencing on 3/12/09,as well as her arraignment on teh present probation-violation. In today's dispatch, Trix covers teh Day that hundreds, perhaps thousandshave waited for: Debbie Frisch finally gets held fully accountable forher criminal habits...
THE LONG ROAD TO JUSTICEMonday, October 25th, 2010
It's a wet, breezy morning in the Willamette Valley, where the storm pummeling Washington and Oregon from the coast to the Cascade Mountains continues blowing sheets of rain over us, downing trees and painting the sky a dismal gray. At 8:33 a.m. shackled inmates filed into Courtroom #306 on the third floor of the Lane County Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, scanning the audience. They wore forest-green smocks with LANE CO. JAIL stamped in white across their backs. A sheriff was positioned at each end of the jury box where they took their seats.
The Honorable Debra Vogt arrived. She spent the first 15 minutes of court had been spent just discerning who was there and who was not. Some were missing, and one attorney, Mr. B., was out sick, leaving numerous defendants with no counsel. The Judge seemed agitated; she suggested Counselor B's cases would need to be reassigned.
Then Judge Vogt called Deborah Ellen Frisch's name. Judge Vogt announced that Deb's attorney, Mr. E., had called to say he was running late on his way from Salem. Her case was added to the recall pile.
It almost seemed fitting: Frisch had slipped and slid past the grasp of justice for over 4 years. Now, in a nod from Fate, she was getting one last reprieve.
The opening review of defendants complete, a litany of "show cause" hearings commenced at 8:47am.
Judge Vogt apprised defendants of their rights: the right to remain silent, to a trial by jury, to call and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (Every defendant who admitted to a probation violation that day was then asked whether they understood their plea thereby waived their armory of familiar 5th and 6th Amendment rights.)
The first defendant had his probation revoked and received the 60 days in jail recommended by the prosecutor.
The tone in the courtroom seemed to shift at this: The consequences of appearing in this court were suddenly tangible--and dead serious.
The list of sobering sentences continued to rain on the courtroom. The prosecutor came down hard on plaintiffs who didn't take their probation seriously. One defendant who--like Debbie, I couldn't help but mentally note--had menaced his victim. The judge declared the purposes of probation were not being served in this case and sentenced the menacer to 120 days.
I could only wonder how this repeated cycle of revocation and incarceration sentences, particularly where noncompliance and menacing were involved, was affecting Deborah Frisch--who seemed to be the only woman on the docket that morning.
At 9:02 Deborah Ellen Frisch was called. Frisch spoke up to withdraw her motion to fire her attorney--about whom Frisch had blogged some nasty bits in her haughty pre-trial days
Her attorney requested a trial, no doubt under orders from Frisch--the only defendant that day to demand that her obvious crimes be proven
. So, again, Justice would be delayed yet a bit longer.
The long wait gave us a chance to gauge the efficient, competent machinery which works to reprimand the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect the public. It became obvious that Judge Vogt took no lip in the courtoom. She closes in like a bulldog until the guilty defendants admit to their culpability. But the judge tempered iron justice with constitutional mercy. (The judge, for instance, would not allow one pro se defendant to go it alone; he seemed too confused, in over his head, to defend himself adequately. Instead, Judge Vogt asked a court-appointed attorney to take a look at his file as a friend of the court.) The DA and various mental health counselors decried the system's "Lack of Funds!", almost to the point of a mantra.
But one observation that morning gave this fearless reporter great pause: A mid-morning misdemeanor defendant, who was given jail and remanded into custody, was not given any probation after his prison term.
It's at this point we realized it: there is usually no "post-prison" for misdemeanors--like Deb Frisch. I began to wonder whether Frisch would be sentenced to jail time, then set free.
I worried. I doubt I was the only one.NEXT UP: OREGON PRISONER 1675174
At 9:45 Judge Vogt called for the State vs. Frisch, referring to an order to show cause dated September 17, 2010, with two allegations: (a) that Frisch had entered a bar and had (b) harassed her victim.
The judge called for opening remarks.
Prosecution called three witnesses:#1: J the Bartender
The first witness, J, was a bartender at Two Friend's Pub in Springfield, Oregon where Frisch had had a well-documented tantrum.
J testified that, on September 5th, he'd seen "that lady" (pointing at Frisch) in the pub where a Sunday night comedy show was about to begin.
J was asked to describe his interaction with defendant Frisch.
She was sitting at the far end of the bar, he recounted. So the bartender approached and told Frisch there was a two-drink minimum for the "no-cover-charge" show.
Frisch said she was just drinking coffee. She claimed to be a reporter
The bartender requested Frisch's journalist credentials.
This reasonable request enraged Frisch, who reverted to hurling outlandish accusations at the bartender. Frisch accused J of discrimination--even though the comedy that night was lesbian-themed.
When lies and accusations didn't work, Frisch commenced yelling and screaming. She left the pub, got in her car, and drove in circles in the parking lot, honking her horn and creating what J described as "quite a scene."
The prosecutor then asked J to confirm the principle purpose of Two Friend's Pub is the sale of alcohol.
On cross-examination, Frisch's attorney tried to refute prosecution's claim that "Two Friends" was a "bar" rather than a "grill."
Defense lawyer E. asked J whether Two Friend's Pub wasn't actually named Two Friend's Pub and Pizza.
J found the point dubious. "Lots of bars sell food," he pointed out.
But Defense Lawyer E had done some homework. He handed the witness Exhibit 101--a menu for the 2 Friends establishment.
The bartender identified the "menu" as "outdated," probably retrieved "off line."
Defense Lawyer E tried another tack: he asked the witness whether "Two Friends" brags about having bought Spaghetti Warehouse's menu.
The witness granted the point, but said they don't sell as many varieties of pizza any more. They have a full menu until 9 o'clock, J added, then they sell strictly fryer food.
The Defense Attorney tried to tie his knot taut: So primary purpose of Two Friends' is not the sale of alcohol?
The witness disagreed. We don't allow minors after 9 o'clock, he said.
And what time did Ms. Frisch arrive at the establishment?
Around 9 o'clock, guessed the witness.
J was dismissed and asked to step down.
---Witness #2: Debbie's Harassment Survivor
Next the state called Frisch's harassment-target
[[Teh Squeak will simply call her "Survivor," for obvious reasons. Frisch was on probation on account of having assaulted and stalked Survivor in late 2008. Frisch, had demanded a trial in that first case, too, and was easily found guilty.
Prosecution asked Survivor about her September 5th contact with the
defendant at Two Friends' Pub & Pizza.
Survivor seemed tense, visibly nervous, and on the verge of tears as she
began recounting Frisch's actions. Survivor said she'd gone to Two Friends'
and ordered a beer. It's a small tavern, and it was crowded for comedy night.
The witness began crying a little as she described how the defendant
had confronted her. Frisch bullied into Survivor's personal space.
"Why are you shaking your face like that?!" Frisch shrieked.
"She was so close to me," Survivor said, that she leaned back against
the bar, frozen in fear.
A friend noticed Frisch's bullying. The friend grabbed Survivor's arm
and pulled her "to safety."
The prosecutor asked Survivor whether she'd had any other contacts with
Yes, answered the witness, a few.
Survivor then described one of Frisch's earlier harassment-episodes, which
occured at the August 14th Eugene Pride festival at Alton Baker Park.
The witness was running a premiere booth there. Frisch arrived, noticed
her victim's booth. At first, Frisch walked away, which was surprising--
Frisch did not always so-retreat when they had these run-ins.
Survivor and her business partner assumed Frisch was leaving, she testified.
They watched her until Frisch seemed to be gone.
The business partner then went to make a phone call.
The instant Survivor was alone, Frisch returned. It was not even 20 seconds
later, she testified.
Frisch stood in front of the witness' ten-by-ten-foot booth. The bully was
apparently staring at a cardboard sign with an event notice standing on an
art easel in front of the booth, but the witness testified Frisch was staring
right at her.
Survivor froze with fear.
The staredown lasted about a minute. Then business partner returned, and
stood in the area until Frisch left.
Frisch hadn't said a word, allowing her staring to do the scaring.
And how about the September 5th incident at 2 Friends Pub? asked the
Frisch approached Survivor at the bar--"close enough to touch" her.
The witness testified her face was shaking because she was trembling. Frisch
"broke the rules" of her 2009 probation-sentence, she said.
The witness' fear was palpable in the courtroom. The audience was quiet, out of
respect to the court, but it was clear most if not all its members--save the
bully in their midst--felt compassion for the victim.
Finally, Frisch was thrown out of the bar. The bully came around for one last
pass at her quarry. Frisch stood in front of them, ranting incoherently, for
about 30 seconds before she left.
The Defense Attorney seemed prepared with questions. Was the pride event
by invitation only? he asked the witness.
No, replied surivor.
And how close to the entrance was her booth?
Pretty near it, the witness granted.
Okay, continued the Defense Lawyer, but was there any publicity that the
Survivor, herself, would be there? How could Frisch have known that?
The witness replied yes, there was publicity of that fact: it was posted
on Myspace, Facebook, GLBTQ, Lavender Women, and Craigslist. The witness
also had an events page on Facebook.
The Defense Counsel tried to parry: "But if Ms. Frisch doesn't monitor
"She's on their online membership lists," rejoined Survivor, batting down
the lawyer's attempted defense.
Debbie's Defense Lawyer posed more minor questions. So Frisch was about
20 feet away from her when she first saw her at Eugene Pride? And Frisch
made no overt action of communication, such as waving at her, on August
14th? And Frisch just stared "in your general direction"--and nothing more?
But Survivor got the last word: Yes, she just stared--but who knows
whether Frisch would have escalated her menacing, had not the Business
Partner returned so quickly?
The Defense Lawyer now sought blemishes in the Two Friends Pub account. But
it was useless. At this point, it seemed the lawyer was reaching for something
that was already beyond his grasp.
I looked around the courtroom. I was surprised to see how many people were
there--all of them supporting Deb's harassment survivor. All of them anxious
to see Frisch's reign of bullying, at long last, penned in.
I felt so heartened by their presence; I'd had no idea I would have so many
kindred spirits in the courtroom today.
---Witness #3: Helping A Friend In Need
The third witness for the prosecution was N. She exuded charisma--
beautiful, stylishly dressed, cheerful.
She testified she was at the Two Friends' Pub for a comedy show. She'd
arrived at round 8:30 that night, and was sitting with friends at a table.
Her friend, Survivor, then arrived.
The friend testified further details of Frisch's bullying and harassment:
N. had witnessed Frisch, three feet from Survivor, videotaping her with
her cell phone.
N.'s friend, Survivor, looked terrified, so N. took her friend outside.
N. corroborated Frisch's verbal harassment: "Don't shake your chin at me!"
Frisch had wailed. And soon after N. had rescued her friend, and taken her
outside, they heard Frisch pitching a tantrum in the bar: yelling, screaming,
With that, the State rested its case.DEB FRISCH TAKES THE STAND!!
The Defense now took up their case. They only had one witness.
"Defense calls Ms. Frisch--" said the Defense Lawyer, who quickly
caught himself, and apologized: "I should refer to you as 'Doctor
Frisch,' shouldn't I, since--"
Frisch cut off her lawyer. "Ms. is fine," she spat.
(At this point, your usually-fearless journalist looked around: I couldn't
help counting the law enforcement presence. One-two-three-FOUR
sheriffs in the courtroom: one at the back, one on each side, and one
sitting at attention in the front row.)
Can you tell us about the Pride Rally? asked Defense Counsel.
Frisch claimed she hadn't seen her victim there.
And at the Two Friends? counsel asked.
Unable to lie, Frisch confirmed seeing Survivor there.
Frisch then tried to blame her victim for Frisch's own crimes: Frisch's
survivor "tried to menace me into leaving a public place merely because
she was there,"declared the defendant, adding that she told her victim to
"stop shaking your chins at me."
Cutting off her own lawyer. Denying the obvious. Blaming the victim.
As usual, Deborah Frisch had hit all her usual high points.
---CLOSING ARGUMENTS--AND CLOSURE FOR DEBBIE'S
Judge Vogt asked for argument.
The prosecuting attorney's conclusion was simple: Miss Frisch had
acknowledged violation of her probation by attending a bar and having contact
with her victim.
Defense tried to claim the Two Friends' primary purpose is not the sale of
alcohol. It also sold food and held entertainment such as comedy.
Also, he began to argue, Frisch had not had prohibited contact with his
victim. She hadn't overtly communicated with her victim at the pride rally.
As for the 2 Friends. . .
The defense, frankly, seemed to be flagging here, as if he already knew
he'd lost. His argument was neither eloquent nor persuasive.
The judge wasn't fooled, either. "Oh, yes she did" violate her probation,
the judge replied. Frisch engaged in prohibited contact with her victim.
Then came a surprise: Judge Vogt reminded attorneys of the
"correspondence" she'd forwarded them. It was a communication originally
addressed to Judge Mitchell, but Judge Vogt had received it. Vogt also
alluded to a "court order" and "documents from concerned citizens" she'd
[Teh Squeak has learned that, in teh weeks leading up to teh
hearing, various bits of information had trickled into teh Lane
County Criminal Courthouse--including descriptions of Frisch's sexual menacing of children on a public street two weeks prior,
and a Federal Court's numerous orders, documenting Miss
Debbie's year-long reign of harassment and terrorization of court staff.
The verdict settled--GUILTY!
--all parties now tried to gravitate toward
an appropriate sentence.
The prosecutor bid high: Frisch's probation should be extended to five years.
It should require mental evaluation and treatment. There should also be a jail
sentence of 10 days.
Defense attempted to play up the "mental health" factor. Frisch has manifest
mental health problems, he offered, then asked whether the judge had seen
Frisch's original psychiatric evaluation in the case file.
The judge seemed incredulous. "You mean the one paragraph?" she asked
sardonically. Frisch, apparently, hadn't cooperated one whit with the
Defense tried to soldier on. That one paragraph reveals some issues, he
Then Frisch's lawyer attempted, amazingly, to bootstrap Frisch's criminal
habits into grounds for leniency. The correspondence Judge Vogt forwarded,
said the Defense Lawyer, shows she has offended a lot of folks. He then pointed
out the audience in the courtroom represents them: Frisch has inspired a lot
of ill will--all the more reason to give her treatment rather than prison.
One couldn't help but chortle at the audacity: Frisch had bullied the public
so intensely that good citizens who took time from their lives to see Justice
was supposed to be evidence, not for caging the criminal, but
for coddling Frisch with more counseling! It was reminiscent of the classic definition of chutzpah
: the man who, having murdered his parents, now
sought leniency on grounds that he was now an orphan.
Judge Vogt leaned forward. Public safety
is also important, she declared.
The court is obliged, she said, to keep people safe from this probationer.
The judge said she was tempted to put in her jail for 18 months and "let
her sit there." But that would result in no supervision or requirements--and
Frisch obviously needs supervision.
Judge Vogt seemed vexed. Our court judicial system, she admitted, is not
adequately prepared to deal with the type of case Frisch presents.
Then the judge sprung the second surprise of the day: Deb Frisch has been
terrorizing people and is dangerous, declared the judge. Ten days? She asked.
Ten days won't do anything. Ten days is a wrist-slap, she said.
Then the judge turned to Frisch. Anything to say before sentence is
"No," said Frisch, in a voice that was clear but tense.
Then the judge issued a sentence which no doubt answered years of hopes
- Five years probation, supervised. Frisch will report to her probation officer within 48 hours of her release. (Release?! Yes, at this point it seemed clear she would be taken into custody before she left the courthouse.) Judge Vogt said she would make a special call to impose supervision on a misdemeanor.
- No more Internet for you, Debbie! Also, to keep people safe, especially her victim, there will be no going online. Frisch is not allowed to get on the internet. She shall disclose all her identities. Her probation officer will be authorized to polygraph her if they suspect she is not in compliance. Also, the probation officer will have the right to search her home and seize any computer equipment they find.
- Debbie's New Home: As a sanction, so she understands the importance of compliance, and to slow down the cycle of violent escalation, Frisch will spend 90 days in jail. Judge Vogt will make an exemption so she is held. When asked by Frisch's lawyer whether Frisch would receive the coveted program eligibility, the judge replied she could receive that eligibility "after a period of time," to be determined by her behavior.
The sentence issued, Judge Vogt apprised Frisch of her 30-day right to appeal then
remanded the criminal to custody.
With that, Oregon Criminal 1675174, Deborah Ellen Frisch, was handcuffed and led
slowly to the back of the courtroom. She turned to survey the court for a couple of
beats. Then she was led away to begin her jail term.
Unlike last year's sentencing, Deb Frisch's family was not present.
The judge called a recess.
Outside the court, there were tears, smiles, and thumbs-up all around.
Much relief was expressed by Frisch's victims, and much gratitude. The man
whose daughters Frisch had traumatized 10 days earlier was even present, as
were other interested parties--some who'd traveled hundreds of miles through
a dangerous storm to be there.
They basked in many emotions--relief, gratitude, even healthy skepticism that,
after coddling Frisch for so long, the Justice System would actually make good
on the promised sentence.
Yes, this was Their Moment.