A visiting judge upheld indictments against former Jewell School superintendent-principal John Seeley and his wife, kindergarten teacher Laura Seeley, at a hearing Wednesday in Clatsop County Circuit Court.

Judge Alan Jack of Clackamas County said it would be impractical to drop the charges "and start from square one."

The Seeleys pleaded not guilty in February to multiple counts of criminal mistreatment involving their teenage daughter.

Both are accused of violating their legal duties to provide care for her, for withholding necessary and adequate food, physical care and medical attention from her, and for leaving her unattended long enough to endanger her health or welfare.

John Seeley faces an additional charge that alleges he unlawfully and knowingly caused her physical injury.

However, the couple challenged those accusations in March, on grounds that their testimony before the grand jury that indicted them was supposed to be recorded.

It's highly unusual for a suspect to appear as a witness before those reviewing a case, a local legal expert said earlier this year, calling the move virtually "unheard of."

"Our clients gave up a constitutional right," attorney Dawn McIntosh, representing Laura Seeley, argued Wednesday. She said it was unlikely the couple would have testified without an understanding that their statements, and everybody else's, would be recorded.

But that didn't happen, and so she, along with attorney Kris Kaino, representing John Seeley, filed motions to dismiss or quash the charges.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown said there was never an official agreement to record, although he admitted Kaino had informally mentioned it.

That would have required a court order, he said, and it would have required that all witnesses' statements be taped. By the time Brown remembered Kaino's request, testimonies were halfway through.

"There's no authority to dismiss the indictments based on a lack of an order to record," Brown said Wednesday.

All three attorneys discussed the case in the judge's chambers with the visiting judge. Meanwhile, about a dozen of the Seeleys' supporters gathered outside the courtroom.

The hearing was short when it finally began more than an hour later.

While Brown agreed to provide the defending attorneys with notes taken during the grand jury process, the Seeleys' indictments would stand, the judge said.

"Without some strong showing that the defendants' testimony before grand jury was a strong factor in securing the indictments, it just doesn't seem practical for me" to quash or dismiss the charges, "and start from square one," said Jack.

The Jewell School District put the Seeleys on paid administrative leave last fall, pending the results of a criminal investigation. Earlier this month, district directors reached a settlement with John Seeley that allows him to continue working for Jewell, but not as superintendent and principal.

As "Consultant for Grant Applications and Special Projects," Seeley will receive about $1,500 each month. Under an agreement effective through June 30, 2010, he can also continue receiving benefits and eventually retire under the Public Employees Retirement System.

But he won't be allowed on school grounds. And monthly payments would drop to $500 if he is convicted of any child abuse charges.

The status of Laura Seeley's employment remains unclear, and an Oregon Department of Justice investigation of finances continues at Jewell School.

The Seeleys are scheduled to appear in court again at 2 p.m. Aug. 17.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.