A University of Oregon student twice Tasered by police
during his May 30 arrest at a downtown Eugene
anti-pesticide rally was convicted late Thursday on
misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and resisting
A jury of four men and two women took about three hours
to unanimously convict Ian Van Ornum, 19, after hearing
more than two days of testimony.
None of the panel looked at the tall, red-headed student
as they filed back into the courtroom shortly after 5:30
p.m. As Lane County Circuit Judge Jack Billings had
instructed, there was no audible reaction from more than
20 people who had stayed at the courthouse past its 5
p.m. closing time to await the verdict.
Among them were three police officers involved in Van
Ornum's arrest. They swiftly left the courtroom without
comment, as did Lane County Deputy District Attorney Bob
Lane, who prosecuted the case. Eugene police spokeswoman
Melinda Kletzok said the department would have no
comment until after Van Ornum's sentencing, which
Billings set for April 24.
Van Ornum said afterward that he was surprised by the
verdict. He said he hadn't yet "had time to process" the
His father, Bruce Van Ornum, said he was stunned by the
outcome after sitting in the courtroom throughout the
trial and seeing everything the jurors watched.
"I don't see how this is possible," said the elder Van
Ornum, a Minnesota financial adviser.
Van Ornum's attorneys declined comment.
The misdemeanor offenses of which Van Ornum was
convicted carry possible fines and jail terms, but
sometimes result in only probation and community
In closing arguments, Lane had urged the jury to convict
Van Ornum, citing testimony from police officers and
others that the student had disrupted traffic by
squirting water from a plastic garden sprayer while
dressed in a mock hazardous materials suit, then
resisted police efforts to arrest him. Even if Van Ornum
did nothing to deserve arrest, the prosecutor said, "a
street corner is not the forum for taking action on a
violation of police policy."
Defense attorney Laura Fine told jurors in her summary
that her client had not disrupted traffic and had simply
exercised his right to defend himself against
unreasonable force by Eugene police officers. She cited
evidence - including images on the Taser stun gun's
video camera - that conflicted with arresting officer
Sgt. Bill Solesbee's account of how and when the midday
confrontation unfolded. And she reiterated allegations
that officers violated the city's Taser policy that day.
Fine said police arrested Van Ornum "not because of what
he did, but because of who they thought he was" based on
incorrect information provided to Solesbee by federal
Department of Homeland Security officer Tom Keedy, who
phoned from the event.
"The agent told him he was monitoring an event by The
Pitchfork Rebellion and that they had stormed the
federal courthouse in March," she said. "They thought he
was The Pitchfork Rebellion."
Keedy had testified Tuesday that he began monitoring the
Oregon-based anti-pesticide group after hearing its
leader advocate nonviolent revolution during a March
2008 speech outside the U.S. Courthouse. The agent
acknowledged in court that the May 30 event had been
organized by UO students, not The Pitchfork Rebellion.
The case has had other far-reaching implications. The
Eugene City Council has considered whether to expand the
city police auditor's powers to include the right to
inquire about officer misconduct even while a criminal
case against the person who made the complaint is
pending - a direct response to the Van Ornum case.
Earlier, county prosecutors had said Eugene police could
conduct an internal investigation of the Van Ornum
arrest, but could not interview the officers involved
until Van Ornum's trial ended.
In his closing argument, Lane challenged Van Ornum's
contention that he didn't try to resist arrest.
If that was true, he asked jurors, why did two officers
have so much trouble getting handcuffs on both wrists of
the student? And why did even defense witnesses
incorrectly testify that they saw police use a Taser on
Van Ornum while he was still standing up?
"The reason is, he was struggling, pulling away,
flailing around - not because he was being Tased, but
because he was resisting arrest," Lane said. Police
video shows that police used the Taser on Van Ornum when
they had him lying down on the sidewalk.
Lane told the jury that its task did not involve
interpreting a gray area. "The two sides here are
diametrically opposed," he said. "Your verdict will
answer for people what happened here."
Van Ornum took the stand in his own defense Thursday.
He disputed Solesbee's testimony about their initial
encounter moments before his arrest. The sergeant on
Tuesday described being summoned to the scene by Keedy
and arriving at Broadway and Willamette Street to see
Van Ornum obstructing traffic by walking back and forth
in a crosswalk.
But Van Ornum denied obstructing traffic. He said he
simply used all four crosswalks to "walk a square"
around the intersection, spraying flower planters at
each corner with water from a pump-style container
painted with a skull and crossbones.
The student, who came to the UO from Minnesota, said he
lingered in the street only when the uniformed Solesbee
stopped his unmarked police vehicle in the intersection
and gestured for him to come up to his open window. He
said the sergeant's "demeanor toward me right away was
angry, negative," and that "the first thing he said when
I walked up was 'Get out of the street or I'll have you
Van Ornum called that statement "confusing and ironic"
since "he brought me back into the street when I was
almost to the sidewalk."
Van Ornum said he told Solesbee: "Officer, I don't
believe you can have me arrested because I'm not doing
Under questioning from Fine, Van Ornum acknowledged that
he also falsely told the sergeant, "You can't arrest me
because I'm 17 years old," as Solesbee had testified.
Van Ornum said he did so because Solesbee seemed angry
from the very beginning and was acting "mean."
Van Ornum said he responded by "acting smart back."
He also disputed Solesbee's testimony that he also had
told the sergeant, "Do you want to be sprayed with
He said he'd given Solesbee the same "spiel" he'd given
passing pedestrians in the street-theater effort to
engage them in the demonstration's topic.
"I don't remember exactly what I said," he said. "But it
was not 'Do you want to be sprayed with poison?' It was
something around the lines of, 'Do you know that the
Oregon Department of Transportation is poisoning our
community by their plans to increase the amount of their
sprays? Do you want to continue to be poisoned?'"
Van Ornum also denied resisting arrest, saying he was
simply reacting when one officer suddenly grabbed him
from behind and wrenched his right arm painfully behind
his back, while another gripped his left arm, and forced
him across the street away from others at the
demonstration. He said he put a leg out to try to
protect himself as the officers pushed him against a
post because his arms were not free to brace himself and
he wanted to protect his head.
The student also described how he felt when and after
Eugene police officer Judd Warden twice stunned him with
the Taser's electrical charge.
"It was the worst pain I ever felt," he said, adding
that even after officers placed him in a police car and
drove him to City Hall, "I was very disoriented. My
muscles were still quivering ... This was my fifth
concussion, and I was feeling very spacey, very
Under questioning by Lane, Van Ornum acknowledged that
his concussion diagnosis by an emergency room physician
and several days later by a UO health center doctor was
based on his own report of symptoms such as headaches
and difficulty retrieving words. He also acknowledged
telling one of the doctors that he was there partly to
"document" his injuries.
Billings earlier denied a request by Lane to introduce
into evidence Van Ornum's notice of intent to sue the
city over his injuries.