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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

D'oh! in OR

Here's the story:

Joke's on tow-truck driver; he's going behind bars for a year

Steven Gerald Syverson showed up 27 minutes late to his sentencing hearing Friday -- just as a judge was readying to issue a warrant for his arrest.

During the hearing, Syverson's cell phone rang, drawing a scowl from the judge. And things went even farther south when Syverson reiterated an old excuse as to why he loaded a Gresham police cruiser onto his tow truck in December 2007: It was a prank. He'd planned to take a picture to show a friend.

"I wasn't going to tow it," Syverson said. "I didn't expect the officers to come down so soon."

During a trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court in February, Syverson's story was all over the place.

He said loading up the cop car was a prank. But he also insisted he didn't know he was about to tow the marked police car.

He testified that he couldn't see well because it was 2 a.m. and dark at the apartment complex. He didn't turn on his truck's lights because he didn't want to tip off owners that one of their cars was about to be towed.

And he said exhaust from his tailpipe was obscuring his view, and he thought he was loaded up a white SUV instead.

Eventually, Judge Eric Bloch said he didn't believe him, and convicted Syverson of first-degree aggravated theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The judge said he believed prosecution witnesses who said the 34-year-old was seeking revenge from police for writing him two speeding tickets.

Police, who were responding to a domestic-violence report at the Kempton Downs apartments near Mt. Hood Community College, intercepted Syverson before he could drive off. Syverson was fired from Retriever Towing, and managers said they didn't endorse such behavior.

At Friday's sentencing hearing and the series of missteps, matters weren't looking good for Syverson. He turned a deep shade of pink and, as others spoke, muttered comments to his mother, who sat in the front row.

The judge told Syverson he didn't think he was accepting responsibility for what he'd done. He said he worried about Syverson's flawed way of thinking, and said Syverson could have prevented the officer from responding to a new emergency call by stranding him without a car.

"It's just about the stupidest, unnecessary criminal act that I've ever encountered in the eight years I've been sitting on this bench," the judge said.

Bloch followed the recommendation of the prosecutor and a pre-sentence investigation writer by ordering Syverson to one year behind bars.

Syverson has had other brushes with the law. In 1994, he was convicted of two instances of possessing or using stolen cars. According to Oregon court records, four women have filed for restraining orders against Syverson, a father of two.

Prosecutor Aaron Knott said Syverson has an attitude problem: When a police officer pulled him over for speed racing, he embarked on "a profanity laden rant" for 20 minutes.

The judge also sentenced Syverson to two years of post-prison supervision, anger-management classes, a mental-health evaluation and cognitive-restructuring therapy.

-- Aimee Green;

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