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Just-released Lane County Jail inmate accused of bank robbery www.privateofficer.com
Eugene OR Dec 3 2012 Christopher Franklin Weaver wore a scowl on his face as he walked among the leaders of a pack of 32 Lane County Jail inmates who were released en masse at 11 a.m. Thursday as part of a budget-balancing plan instituted by sheriff’s officials.
Police say he continued walking for a mile or so, robbed a bank, got caught and was promptly returned to the county lockup.
“This isn’t necessarily a worst-case scenario, but it’s a very bad case,” LaneCounty sheriff’s Sgt. Carrie Carver said.
Eugene police officers arrested Weaver shortly after the 11:55 a.m. heist at a Pacific Continental Branch at 1450 High St. and handed him over to FBI officials, who took him back to jail.
Weaver, who allegedly presented a demand note to a teller before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash, is expected to face a federal bank robbery charge.
As a federal inmate, he will remain behind bars unless a U.S. District judge authorizes his release.
Before his release, the 33-year-old Weaver had been held in jail on a parole violation stemming from a conviction for second-degree sexual abuse, along with a warrant charging him with failing to appear in court on a felony charge of unlawful use of a vehicle.
Weaver walked ahead of many in the 32-person group of inmates who stepped out of their cells and into the pouring rain on Thursday morning.
A few of the newly released prisoners whooped and hollered as they left the jail, while one man threw his middle finger into the air and shouted profanities. Several others covered their faces or put their head down while swiftly exiting an area outside the facility’s back doors, where local media members had gathered to witness the exodus.
“This place is horrible,” Gerard Zeitler said emphatically as he left the jail property.
In custody since Nov. 12 on a parole violation and pending misdemeanor charges of interfering with police and possession of a burglary tool, the 32-year-old Zeitler surmised that he and the other inmates were set free on Thursday because county officials “don’t manage their money correctly.”
Sheriff Tom Turner announced in late October that he needed to close 35 jail beds because federal demand for reserved space in the facility had decreased unexpectedly in recent months, meaning that the U.S. Marshals Service was paying the county less than it had in the past to house federal inmates.
The jail — which is large enough to hold nearly 500 people — now has just 135 beds available for local offenders. Fifty-five additional beds are designated for federal prisoners, while 15 more are rented by the city of Eugene.
Thursday’s bed closure marked the second time this year that the county has reduced available jail space. In June, 96 beds were closed to allow the sheriff’s office to balance its budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Since then, dozens of inmates have been forced out each week in order to make room for people deemed to pose a greater danger to the public.
“As we get smaller, the people we release get more dangerous,” jail commander Greg Fox said Thursday, just a few minutes before the bank robbery.
Three of the inmates freed Thursday morning are accused of Measure 11 offenses that will result in mandatory prison sentences if they are ultimately convicted of the charges.
One of those suspects, 24-year-old Eugene resident Joshua Chance Stepina, had been jailed since Tuesday on a first-degree assault charge in connection with an alleged stabbing outside a Eugene nightclub.
Another Measure 11 crime suspect who was set loose on Thursday is 33-year-old Bradley Roberts Rofinot, who was booked into the jail on Wednesday after being accused of second-degree assault after an alleged domestic dispute in Junction City.
A third inmate facing a Measure 11 allegation, 37-year-old Scott Raymond Akins, also was released Thursday. He had been in jail since Nov. 21 on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse, according to jail records.
Adam Hyland, who walked free after serving four days of a five-day sentence for interfering with making a police report, said the idea that too many dangerous people are being freed early from the jail “is a relevant concern.”
“I saw a couple of people who got out who I would prefer to see in prison,” the 33-year-old Hyland said.
Fox, the jail’s commander, said the county facility is likely to be forced to grant early release to more than 5,000 inmates annually for as long as it operates at its current level.
He said prisoners are well aware of the situation.
“Most (inmates) are just counting their hours, expecting to be the next one to go,” Fox said.
The sheriff’s office is cutting six jail deputy positions to offset the projected $750,000 reduction in federal revenue in this fiscal year. Three deputies are retiring, while three more are being laid off today, Fox said.
LaneCounty commissioners, meanwhile, have discussed asking taxpayers for more money to fund jail operations, but have not committed to putting a public safety measure on the ballot within any specific time frame.