The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 6:02 PM Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 8:06 PM
By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
Marc Blackman is considered one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Oregon.
A Woodburn priest accused this week of drunkenly fondling a 12-year-old boy has hired one of Oregon’s best criminal defense lawyers to represent him.
The Archdiocese of Portland offered an open-ended loan to the Rev. Angel Armando Perez to cover the legal fees of Marc Blackman, according to archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce.
Blackman, 65, a founder of the Ransom Blackman law firm, has spent the last 35 years in private practice, representing such high-profile criminals as:
Andy Wiederhorn, a Portland businessman, who was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison (and fined $2 million) for filing a false tax return and paying an illegal gratuity to the head of Capital Consultants.
Jonathan C. M. Paul, an Animal Liberation Front saboteur (and brother of Baywatch TV star Alexandra Paul), who was sentenced to a five-year prison term for burning down a horse slaughterhouse in Redmond.
Jayant Patel, an Oregon surgeon nicknamed “Doctor Death” by Australian news media for performing ies botched surgeries that ended with manslaughter convictions. (Blackman represented Patel during his extradition to Australia.) Patel was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Blackman declined to Comment for this story.
It’s unclear what assistance he will be able to offer Perez, who remained jailed Thursday in Marion County.
Woodburn police arrested Perez Monday after the 12-year-old boy ran out of a parish-owned house, telling authorities the clergyman had fondled him. Perez told investigators he had gotten very drunk and passed out and didn’t remember what had happened. But he acknowledged that he drove to boy’s home, where he fell to his knees, and apologized to his parents, according to a police report.
The priest, a native of Mexico, holds a green card as a minister of religion. This gives him permanent legal residency in the U.S., said Bunce, the director of communications for the Portland archdiocese, which represents Roman Catholics in western Oregon.
The archdiocese has not had a priest arrested on sex abuse charges since the early 1980s, when the Rev. Thomas Laughlin was arrested and convicted of child abuse, Bunce said. It was unclear whether the archdiocese loaned Laughlin money for his legal representation, he said.
Blackman is a tireless advocate for his clients who finds creative ways to attack the prosecutions of those he represents, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Deits, who has battled Blackman in courtrooms for decades.
“He’s one of the best criminal lawyers in the state — period,” said Deits, who heads a team of drug prosecutors in Portland.
Deits believes Blackman possesses an advantage over many criminal defense attorneys because he worked as a federal prosecutor. Blackman went to work for the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland in 1974, taking on mostly tax and white-collar crime cases.
Charlie Turner, one of Oregon’s former U.S. attorneys, worked as a line prosecutor with Blackman. He recalled his friend as a skilled courtroom lawyer who appealed to judges and juries and always drilled straight to the heart of legal matters.
“When you go up against Marc Blackman, you better have your homework done,” Turner said. “You better have the facts of the law on your side.”
Blackman possesses a cool courtroom demeanor, although he sometimes looks tightly wound beneath his dark suits, and his plainspoken arguments resonate with judges and juries.
While arguing the case of an Oak Grove schoolteacher who had surfed the web for child porn, he argued that his client never “possessed” the images, only viewed them. He likened the web surfing to window shopping at Meier & Frank. “When I view a web page, I am visiting,” he said. “When I walk by the window, I possess the object because I can see it?”
Blackman and fellow prosecutor John “Jack” Ransom left the U.S. attorney’s office in 1977 to form — with lawyer Jeff Rogers — their own law practice. Rogers later left the firm.
Ransom said his partner has performed some of his best work in cases that never saw the light of day, handling clients facing legal or regulatory actions by such entities as the Oregon State Bar, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Oregon Medical Board.
“It hurts me to say this,” Ransom said with a chuckle. “He is a better lawyer than I am. … He sees things that most people don’t see. He can envision certain possibilities occurring down the road that other people don’t see. He can prevent a lot of problems because of that intense intelligence that allows him to identify these problems.”
Portland lawyer Kelly Clark, who has represented victims of clergy sex abuse in civil lawsuits, said the idea that the archdiocese offered Perez a loan first struck him as curious.
But after he thought about it, he said, it made more sense — if Perez had acknowledged responsibility — for the archdiocese to offer him a loan because it demonstrates its belief in forgiveness and redemption.
“If in fact the priest has admitted wrongdoing, then one reason for going with someone like Marc is that he is so well respected he might be able to negotiate a more tolerable plea bargain,” he said. Picking Blackman, he said, showed one thing: “They went right to the top of the class.”
— Bryan Denson