What does $20 get you from a cop? Handcuffs
Bribe - A young driver learns the hard way that trying to influence an officer is a felony
Friday, December 07, 2007
The Oregonian Staff
If you get stopped for speeding in Portland, here's what not to do: Try to bribe the cop with a $20 bill.
Portland Traffic Officer Mark James was parked mid-span on the Burnside Bridge on Wednesday night with a radar gun, checking for speeders.
After clocking a Dodge Caravan traveling east at 43 mph in a 25-mph zone, James pulled behind the van and stopped it at 7:23 p.m., about 40 minutes before the bridge was supposed to close for construction work.
The driver wore a Thrifty Car Rental jacket with his first name "Mike" written on front. The officer said the driver appeared nervous as he asked to see his license and questioned if he knew what the speed limit was on the bridge.
"I can't lose my job," the driver told the officer, according to a police report. "I'll give you 20 bucks under the table."
Stunned, the officer repeated his request to see his license. The driver handed it over, plus paperwork showing the van belonged to his employer, Thrifty Car Rental company.
James returned to his patrol car and searched through his field book for the legal statute on bribery. But he couldn't find it and summoned a sergeant.
After conferring with his supervisor, they located ORS 162.015 on "Bribe giving."
Under state law, a person commits "bribe giving" if the person offers, confers or agrees to confer any monetary benefit upon a public servant "with the intent to influence the public servant's vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion in an official capacity."
Prosecutors say the charge is rarely brought. In fact, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Nicole Jergovic said she's never seen the charge before. She handles felony traffic-related crimes and has been assigned this case.
James returned to the van driver and asked him, "Do you have a twenty?"
"Yes," the driver answered, according to police.
At that, James asked the driver, 19-year-old Vincent Michael Matt of Vancouver to step from the van. He handcuffed him and placed him under arrest for bribery. Then, James asked where the $20 was.
The officer pulled the bill from Matt's right front pocket and confiscated it as evidence. When the driver asked the officer if he could call his boss on his cell phone, the officer dialed for him.
Matt apologized over and over and told his employer and police he wished he hadn't done what he did.
By then, it was no use.
The officer took him to Central Precinct, issued a receipt for his $20 bill and booked Matt into the Justice Center jail. He was released early Thursday.
Now, Matt, who did not return calls, not only faces a speeding ticket for going 18 miles over the speed limit, which could bring a $242 fine, but a felony charge.
Maxine Bernstein: maxinebernstein@ news.oregonian.com; 503-221-8212.