A Lane County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty to rape and other charges stemming from an incident in Springfield on March 19.
Matthew Allison Hitson, 40, who has worked for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer for the last three years, faces two charges of first-degree rape, as well as charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor and delivering marijuana to a minor. He has been placed on “unpaid administrative leave pending resolution of criminal charges,” according to a Lane County Sheriff’s Office press release. LCSO has confiscated his badge, weapon and uniform.
The survivor of the assault, who has not been publicly named, is an 18-year old woman in Springfield. Police in Springfield contacted the LCSO when they opened the investigation into Hitson on March 21, and arrested him on March 23. He was held in the Lane County Jail in downtown Eugene until March 29, when he was transferred to the Linn County Jail for “security reasons,” according to Sheriff Byron Trapp.
“The Sheriff’s Office is saddened a member of the organization may have been involved in actions that lead to the above charges, and the impact it has on our community,” the LCSO said in a news release. “The conduct reported is not acceptable, and fails to meet the standards expected of members of the Sheriff’s Office.”
The suspended deputy is being represented in court by Bryan Boender, a Eugene-based lawyer. Boender could not be reached for comment but released a statement on behalf of his client on March 26.
“We are at an important time in our country’s history. Issues of gender equality are, rightly, taking center stage,” Boender said. “Now more than ever, we must respect the facts, law, and the legal process before we rush to judgment. Justice cannot be served when it is based on accusations alone.”
Hitson’s arrest is the latest in a string of controversies involving law enforcement in the Eugene/Springfield area. Last year, Eugene police captain Sam Kamkar was placed on paid leave for five months after he was accused of sexual harassment by a female officer. The LCSO faced accusations of racial profiling and bias in 2017, which were highly publicized in local media. In mid-March, news broke that the Eugene Police Department disregarded one-third of 911 calls. A sexual assault of a University of Oregon student on March 20 went unreported by the Eugene Police Department for two days, stoking fears among students that the attack was connected to the recent robberies and assaults around campus.
“I think it’s [expletive] that I’m afraid to go outside at night because of some predator,” Tricia Walsh, a student enrolled at both the University and at Lane Community College, said. “Because if I did, and something happened, I can’t even rely on the police to help me.”
If convicted, Hitson faces a minimum of eight years and four months in prison under Measure 11 guidelines for mandatory sentences. He is due back in court on April 30.