A Washington County Jail sheriff’s deputy was indicted this week on new charges by a grand jury stemming from a 2018 assault that took place in the jail.
Deputy Rian Alden was indicted on two counts of second-degree assault — felonies with mandatory minimum sentences — and unlawful use of a weapon. Earlier this month Alden was indicted on official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Security camera footage from inside the booking area of the jail shows Alden running toward Albert Molina, appearing to place his hands around Molina’s neck, slamming him up against a wall and then bringing him to the ground. Three other deputies are present during the incident, the video shows.
Court records show Molina was booked for driving under the influence.
Molina’s injuries left him in a hospital bed with a skull fracture for 19 days, including five in an ICU, according to hospital records provided by Molina’s attorney. In October 2019, he filed a civil lawsuit.
The 2018 use of force incident was previously investigated by Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. While the findings of the investigation were presented to the Washington County district attorney’s office, the office didn’t file charges.
The case was reopened after the sheriff’s office received an email in late May alleging the deputy used racial slurs online in 2003. An investigation began and Alden was placed on leave.
OPB received a copy of the online message from Molina’s attorney, Jason Kafoury. In the message dated Dec. 18, 2003, Alden used racist language to describe immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, and parts of Asia. He also said “foreigners” had come to the U.S. to “take our jobs for less money even though they don’t belong here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, That was Racist, but I guess I am,” he wrote.
That email is what led to the official misconduct charge on June 5.
On Friday, Alden turned himself into the Washington County Jail. He’s being held at the Columbia County Jail “for safety reasons,” the sheriff’s office said.
Alden remains on administrative leave. His bail is $250,000.
Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal case.
Barton was elected in May 2018 and took over the office shortly after.
On Sept. 10, 2018, former Senior Deputy District Attorney Megan Johnson wrote the DA’s office would not be bringing charges against Alden for Molina’s injuries.
“During booking photos Deputy Alden used physical force to restrain Mr. Molina and Mr. Molina was injured as a result,” Johnson wrote, noting the investigation by Multnomah County. “The State will not file criminal charges as we cannot prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt in this matter.”
Johnson noted Molina had no recollection of his arrest or the incident in the jail.
“The few witnesses on scene are inconsistent in what they saw and heard,” Johnson wrote. “The video is of minimal value because it captures only one view and has no audio feed.”
Johnson noted in a Sept. 10, 2018 email, provided to OPB by Alden’s attorney, that “because of confidentiality” the decision not to charge the incident “will not be sent though whatever ‘usual channels’ there are to communicate a decision not to file.”
In a June 5 statement, Barton’s office said “new evidence recently became known” and it would reopen the case.
Beyond Alden’s racist message from 2003, it’s not clear what new evidence led to Thursday’s indictment.
On Tuesday, Washington County agreed to a $625,000 settlement with Molina.
“What happened two years ago without law enforcement and the DA not charging, was an egregious injustice, the video says it all,” Kafoury said. “Clearly the national police reform movement pushed the county to resolve the case and press charges against Alden.”
Kafoury said he can’t recall a time a district attorney has filed a felony charge against an officer on duty stemming from a use of force incident.
Alden’s attorney said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and Barton, the district attorney, have mishandled the case.
“They are trying to save face at the expense of a dedicated police officer of nearly 15 years,” said Dan Thenell, general counsel for the Oregon Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. “If the sheriff and DA were really interested in justice, rather than succumbing to politics, they would have had the grand jury hear from the Washington County Sheriff's Office employees who reviewed and agreed with Rian’s use of force.”
Thenell said they look forward to a jury reviewing the facts and “clearing Rian’s name.”