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Charges Dropped In McMinnville Teens' Harassment Case

Prosecutors in Yamhill County dropped all charges Monday against two teenaged boys from McMinnville. The accusations of spanking and other unwanted sexual behavior involving 13 year-olds Ryan Cornelison and Cory Mashburn have been splashed across national television for months. Now, with payments and apologies offered to the victims, all parties can  step out of the media spotlight, as Rob Manning reports. 

The story of two boys being prosecuted for slapping and poking teenaged girls against their wishes captured so much media attention, the coverage seemed to direct the course of the trial at times. Judge John Collins nodded to that in his first words from the bench the morning the trial was to start. 

Judge John Collins: “No need to call the name of this case, everybody knows which case this is, and why we're here…”

Collins went on to explain that defendants and prosecutors reached deals with four victims in three days — including one just before court opened. The first condition was that the boys, who have been on television repeatedly, tell the victims they are  sorry. 

In a barely audible statement, Ryan Cornelison turned to the court audience and apologized, while photographers shot pictures.  

Ryan Cornelison: “I'm sorry; what we did, we were just trying to be funny, and we know it wasn't appropriate now and it wasn't your fault.”

Mashburn, too, quietly apologized, saying that his behavior was also inappropriate. 

While the boys have gotten a lot  of media attention, the identities of the female victims have been kept quiet. During the court proceedings, assistant DA Debra Markham read submitted statements from the victims' side. 

This came from one parent.

Debra Markham: “The focus was taken off the victims and made them seem as if they did something wrong for telling the truth. The boys were spotlighted for the crimes they committed, and made it seem as though they did nothing wrong. The way this was all handled was just as wrong as the actual crimes. My daughter and I have been through a great deal of emotional pain — seeing how my daughter reacted to all this, she went from outgoing and social to just hiding in the shadows.” 

The civil compromise requires that the boys write apologies to the girls who are part of the settlement. The boys have to attend boundaries counseling. And, the defense has agreed to financial settlements with the girls. Early reports said they were $250each. But District Attorney Brad Berry says that's not true across-the-board. 

Brad Berry: “The amount reported may or may not be accurate for a particular victim, I don't know. I do know that some victims were paid substantially more than what's been reported.” 

The district attorney's office contends that at least one of the girls agreed to the compromise with reluctance. There was little equivocation on the boys' side. Cory Mashburn's mother, Traci, expressed relief on KATU television. 

Traci Mashburn: “I'm very happy. It's finally over. As I said before, justice has finally been served.” 

DA Brad Berry says that the defense repeatedly involved the media believing it would help their case. He says for his part, prosecutors are satisfied with the outcome. Berry says he didn't really want the boys jailed or branded as sex offenders. He says they did push for probation, but backed down. 

Nevertheless  Berry says he's not willing to write off what the boys did as “horseplay.” He says such misbehavior can lead to sex crimes — if left unchecked.

Brad Berry: “I'm not making any suggestion that these two youth are 'sex offenders' as the term is used and bandied about, but we recognize that the behavior starts at these young ages, for sex offenders that we do deal with as adults.” 

Berry says his office has quietly gotten some support from some people in Yamhill County, just as others have been outspoken critics. 

In his last words on the case, Judge John Collins hoped someone would look back, and learn something. 

John Collins: “There are lessons to be learned here, some of which will continue to be discussed.  And hopefully, though, this case can heal, the parties involved can heal, and all can move forward. Motion granted, case dismissed.” 

District Attorney Brad Berry says he will review how his office and police handled the case. He says he's looked at ways to get sex abuse awareness into the curriculum at school . That's where many observers say the behavior should have been handled, in the first place. 

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