Saga of ‘A cyclist named James’ ends on a positive note

Posted by on November 27th, 2007 at 1:50 pm

“Our community, via this website, came together to solve a public safety problem affecting bicyclists and pedestrians.”
–Officer Robert Pickett, SE Precinct

It all started back in May of 2006 when I read a post to the Portland Bike Forums titled, I was harassed by a cyclist named James this morning.

The post, left by Erica (last name withheld), detailed a scary interaction with a stranger that occurred while she biked to work in downtown Portland.

Soon, other women in the Forums came forward with similar experiences by what seemed to be the same person. More importantly, Erica’s post caught the eye of SE Precinct police Officer Robert Pickett. Pickett (who posts in the Forums as “PoPo”) had been aware of someone harassing bicyclists and pedestrians on the Esplanade for months but it was only from the information he gleaned from the Forums that he was able to positively identify James.

Once he put some of the pieces together, Pickett launched a formal investigation and prosecution process in April 2006. He contacted the women who had posted in the Forums and used their testimony to help the district attorney build a case against James.

“From the beginning all I wanted was for James to get help.”
–Erica, who was physically and verbally harassed by James.

James had a troubled past that included regular run-ins with the law, but until now, he was always let go due to a lack of evidence.

As the case against him mounted, the Willamette Week published a story (as a follow-up to this story) that detailed the complexities of James’ life. Reporter Angela Valdez wrote of his challenges with bipolar disorder and his inability to pay for much-needed medications.

A few weeks later (on 8/31/06) Officer Pickett posted this message in the Forums:

“With the cooperation of witnesses from this website and other members of the Portland bicycling community, the District Attorney’s office was able to charge James with multiple counts of Disorderly Conduct and Harassment.”

The DA subsequently issued an arrest warrant for James and he was brought in by PPB officers that same night.

A trial was set for earlier this month and according to Officer Pickett, James showed up “clean and well-dressed and reasonable and communicative”. Pickett also reported that James had found a place to live and was no longer living on the streets.

At the trial held two weeks ago, James pled “no contest” to three counts of Harassment, thus ending an 18 month process.

Pickett says the judge sentenced James to a minor fine and a year of probation, during which he is required to continue to undergo mental health treatment.

Looking back at the case, Pickett offered these thoughts:

“Our community, via this website, came together to solve a public safety problem affecting bicyclists and pedestrians. The communicative nexus of bikeportland.org allowed police to locate a number of victims of James’ behavior, in confrontations that occurred in all four quadrants of our city.”

Erica (the woman who made the initial Forum post) told me yesterday that she’s “very glad the way this situation turned out”. She said she was very appreciative of Officer Pickett’s persistence and she offered this perspective,

“From the beginning all I wanted was for James to get help and with this guilty plea he is being monitored to make sure he does so. This whole case was very disturbing and damaging to a lot of women in the bicycle community. I am very proud of those women who stood forward and made a formal report.”

Thanks to everyone in the Forums involved in this story. I think it’s a testament to the power of compassionate police work and to the strength of our community.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
19 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
17 Comment authors
ZachJessica RobertsrevEricaPatti Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Dan Kaufman
Guest

Once again, great work everybody!!

girl on a bike
Guest
girl on a bike

Maybe it would fit the more positive angle of this story if the link under Possibly Related Posts didn\’t still read \”Update on that creep named James.\” I know he\’s acted pretty creepy, and that was a pretty fitting headline at the time, but now that more is known about the likely causes of this behavior, labeling the guy a \”creep\” feels like a cheap shot. And–not that he\’s necessarily gonna come looking here for mentions of his name–but that kind of singling-out and labeling of a person with his condition is exactly the kind of thing that might lead to a really bad reaction. I grew up with a bipolar dad, and once he finally started taking medication, it didn\’t ever take much for him to stop, using any little setback as an excuse. I think being called a creep on a popular website AND having his full, real name in the same posting might even qualify as more than a little setback for someone who\’s trying to get his life on track.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I don\’t think it\’s appropriate or necessary to publish James\’ full name, either. Until this country can start to deal with mental health issues in an adult fashion, people afflicted by any mental disorder must protect their privacy at all times, or suffer long term consequences in terms of employment or other discrimination. The man\’s getting help; let\’s not imperil his chances of having a normal future.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

\”Maybe it would fit the more positive angle of this story if the link under Possibly Related Posts didn\’t still read \”Update on that creep named James.\”

girl on a bike,

I complete agree with you. I have changed the title. Please understand that back when I wrote that initial title I didn\’t know much at all about the case…I also was not as careful and sensitive in my reporting as I am these days. Thanks for pointing this out.

And as for publishing his full name. I agree with you and Peejay about this but I decided to use his full name because it had already been published in several media stories.

I\’ll consider editing it out, but for now I think it will remain. That\’s the sometimes challenging position of an advocate/journalist… I want to present all the facts, but then maybe the facts aren\’t the best thing to help a situation…

I appreciate your continued feedback.


Update: I decided to remove his last name from the story.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Thanks, Jonathan. I appreciate the deliberation you give to your work.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

And a big THANK YOU to PoPo too! 😉

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

I guess I\’ll play a little devil\’s advocate here.

After reading the Willy Week article, especially the part about James randomly showing up in other people\’s houses with hedge trimers, I would say \”creepy\”. If he lived in my neighborhood, I would appreciate being able to get the facts on him (via googling his name) so I could appropraiately protect my family.

No, I am not talking about mr. Glock 9mm, but rather informing my family on who to watch out for. Before you respond, ask your self if you want him living next door. Look at how much difficulty DHS has recently had putting halfway houses into residential neighborhoods.

I get nervous when people absolve people due to mental health issues. Don\’t forget that this guy is mentally competent and responsible for his action. If you are really concerned about these folks, then you should be calling your Multnomah county commissioners about the recent cut in mantal health services. Typically it is these case workers or family members who keep these folks grounded, enrolled in programs and out of my kitchen with hedge clippers.

My 2 cents

a.O
Guest
a.O

Before you respond, ask your self if you want him living next door.

Everyone would rather live next door to Richie Rich than James, so where is the guy supposed to live? NIMBYism is pointless.

That aside, the community should be well-informed. But not to the extent that it facilitates housing or other types of discrimination, something that is rampant with respect to the mentally ill. Positive identifications of the mentally ill in the media certainly doesn\’t help.

And as long as we\’re talking full disclosure, you should know that the mentally ill are distinctly unlikely to be violent.

Another fact you should know: Mental competency is a legal standard that is (a) *very* low, and (b) almost totally unrelated to, and not considered in, mental health assessment and diagnosis.

With all that said, I\’m not sure what you think the issue is. You know the guy\’s full name, key aspects of his past behavior, and his general mental health and legal status. You\’re fully informed with regard to the situation and thus equipped to protect your family, which was your stated concern.

A different James
Guest
A different James

Finally, my name is cleared…

Antonio Gramsci
Guest

It would be ok to publish the gentleman\’s full name if the US wasn\’t turning rapidly into a fascist thirdworld banana republic where:

o) a tinhorn dictator can put anyone in a military brig on personal whim

o) any insurance company can permanently blacklist you from receiving health insurance

o) anyone who doesn\’t conform to certain standards of etiquette risks getting shot and killed by the cops

o) people who have already served time for some crimes risk posse-like vigilantism (eg, http://bikeportland.org/forum/showthread.php?t=1393)

LandShark Pete
Guest
LandShark Pete

Thanks to Erica and the other women who posted their concerns. But what\’s truly remarkable is that Officer Pickett put it all together. Well done!

Ideally, cyclists would report scary incidents directly to the police. Yeah, yeah, I know that no single report is likely to generate a robust police response, but it makes it easier for the cops and DA to recognize a pattern if the reports are already in their systems. It\’s nothing short of a miracle that an officer was monitoring this website and looking for criminal issues.

As for James, I hope he gets the help and treatment he needs. We don\’t need to know more…at least not right now. Like many of you, I\’m appalled about how few social services are available for the mentally ill. It\’s a scandal. HOWEVER–if James violates probation, leaves treatment prematurely, or re-offends, then women cyclists and other potential victims deserve to know who he is, where he is, how he operates, and what he looks like (mug shot).

It\’s not a matter of demonizing the person, it\’s a matter of protecting other people from dangerous behavior.

me 2
Guest
me 2

I\’m glad to hear he is getting some help. I was taking Max to a conference at the World Forestry Center last year when he got on at Old Town. He walked right up to the first woman he saw and started talking to her in a pretty menacing tone.

wsbob
Guest

While admittedly I\’ve never been confronted by James personally, or even know him other than from comments here and the WW story, I\’m inclined to think this guy, with help of course, is likely to be manageable and could probably establish a life in the community that most people could probably deal with.

Also, I\’m thinking that a lot of people could more easily live next to this guy James, then for example, the convicted pedophile in Oregon City that wanted to run a bike shop. (by the way, according to an article in today\’s Oregonian, his plans to open the bike shop are temporarily on hold while the city determines whether it is required to issue a license for such a business to a convicted pedophile).

Quincy
Guest

Two stories in one day (saga and Watzig) exemplifying the incredible effect Jonathan\’s work is having on our community. Thanks again Mr Maus.

Patti
Guest

It is heartening that things are better for everyone. I am sincerely impressed.

Erica
Guest
Erica

Thank you, Jonathan, Officer Pickett, and mostly to the community.

rev
Guest

I have met with Pickett, he is a reasonable man whom I am proud to have serving our city.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

PoPo for mayor!

Zach
Guest
Zach

Let\’s let PoPo work his way up from, I dunno, say.. TRAFFIC DIVISION COMMANDER to mayor…