State officials have revoked the police license of a former Marion County sheriff’s deputy after finding he stole $12 by illegally playing credits left on a lottery machine being used by another player at a Salem restaurant.
Jerry Wollenschlaeger used money in a lottery machine without permission from the woman who reserved it and was dishonest with investigators from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office about the incident, according to a report by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the state agency tasked with licensing officers and investigating complaints of misconduct.
In March 2019, prosecutors charged Wollenschlaeger, 49, of Salem, in Marion County Circuit Court with third-degree theft. Circuit Judge Courtland Geyer dismissed the charge four months later after Wollenschlaeger and the woman reached a civil compromise, court records show.
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson told Salem Reporter on Friday that the judge dismissed the criminal case over her office’s objection.
Wollenschlaeger told Salem Reporter in an interview Sunday that he believed prosecutors treated him unfairly.
“I’m not a thief. I didn’t steal anybody’s money,” he said.
The licensing agency determined that Wollenschlaeger removed a sign set by a woman reserving the machine and played with the money she had left in it. The department said in a report that the woman was calm when confronting Wollenschlaeger, but the deputy was not.
At the time of the incident, the district attorney’s office also was investigating Wollenschlaeger after he inserted himself into a criminal investigation that involved his immediate family, according to the state’s report, released publicly after his license was revoked.
Clarkson said her agency considered but decided against charging the deputy with official misconduct in that case.
“As a result of these investigations, our office further determined that Mr. Wollenschlaeger could not withstand that strict scrutiny required of law enforcement witnesses in criminal matters,” Clarkson said in an email.
Her agency notified the deputy in September 2019 that it would not use him as a witness in any future prosecutions – the so-called Brady determination.
Wollenschlaeger retired two months later through a settlement with the sheriff’s office.
The agency did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday and terms of his settlement with the county couldn’t immediately be determined.
“The DA just Bradys whoever they want for any reason that they want and there’s no justification for it. You know, there’s no checks and balances on it,” Wollenschlaeger said. “The DA had already made up their mind that, in my opinion, that they were going to proceed with the way that they went. And unfortunately, that’s the way it works right now and cops don’t have, you know, good due process when they’re accused of stuff that they didn’t do.”
“They were out to get me, as I felt, and I was like, ‘Okay, you know, what do you do? You can’t fight ’em because they just – they make up their mind and that’s the way it is,’” he said. “I did have my right to go to a trial if I wanted to, but I felt it was easier just to settle out of court and go from there.”
The state’s police licensing department closed its investigation of Wollenschlaeger on Friday, Jan. 27. The Board on Public Safety Standards and Training revoked his certification for life on Oct. 27, 2022, meaning he can no longer become certified as a police or corrections officer in Oregon.
“Wollenschlaeger’s behavior is the type of conduct that should be excluded from the profession,” the department wrote in a report.
A final report by the agency provides an account of the incident and the ensuing state investigation.
In January 2019, the Oregon State Police began investigating a dispute over a lottery terminal between Wollenschlaeger and another patron at a Salem restaurant that occurred a month earlier.
The woman told police that Wollenschlaeger removed a reserved sign she had placed on a lottery machine and used what was left of her deposit without her permission.
Police conducted a forensic review of the lottery machine and found it had a $12.40 balance when the woman stepped away.
Another patron told police he saw the woman put a sign on the machine “indicating she would be back in ten minutes.” Shortly after the woman stepped away, the witness told police, Wollenschlaeger sat down at the machine, threw away the sign and used the woman’s money on the lottery machine.
The witness said he told Wollenschlaeger that the machine was in use, and that the deputy replied, “she’s not here,” according to the report. When the woman returned to find Wollenschlaeger at the machine, the witness told police that Wollenschlaeger began repeatedly cursing at the woman.
“The woman indicated that Wollenschlaeger told her to ‘stop talking’ and felt that if she pursued the issue, she would get in trouble since the other patrons told her he was an officer. Wollenschlaeger declined to be interviewed as part of the criminal investigation,” according to the report.
Wollenschlaeger said he upheld his constitutional right to first consult an attorney, due to a previous experience where a detective of another agency lied in a report relating to him.
“I kept silent because that’s what my right to do is until I have to do otherwise, and I wasn’t afforded that opportunity,” he said. “Me trying to … protect my constitutional rights, they see that as I’m being difficult or adversary, and that’s just not true.”
Wollenschlaeger was arrested and charged with theft in March 2019. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office – his employer – investigated that criminal case, according to Clarkson.
The charge was dismissed in July 2019 later after Wollenschlaeger agreed to pay the woman $1,500 in a civil compromise.
Under state law, judges can allow defendants charged with a misdemeanor to reach a compromise with the victim.
In a September 2019 interview as part of a sheriff’s office internal investigation, Wollenschlaeger said he put the sign down beside the machine, and a man playing another machine told him he hadn’t seen anybody using the machine, according to the state report.
Wollenschlaeger told Salem Reporter that police couldn’t find that patron, adding that he was a victim of “circumstance.”
He said he didn’t see anybody at three machines, returned around 10 minutes later and still saw nobody at the machine.
“Somebody got on the machine, apparently, in that time, but left again. And the problem is video would have showed that, but there was no video,” he said. “I had come in the door from the dining room area which was closest to the machine, so I didn’t even know that somebody had been on it.”
Wollenschlaeger said he has earned three life-saving wards, multiple community service awards and “caught hundreds of bad guys with my police dog.”
“I was a go-getter, and I did my job better than, I feel, a lot of people did. And for some reason, the DA had (to), you know, believe the way they believe, and you know what, who wants to deal with that system when even cops can’t get, you know, a fair shake of things.”
Wollenschlaeger told investigators that he offered to give the woman $20 at the time, but she refused.
“Well, that becomes a civil manner, and nobody wanted to see it that way I guess,” he told Salem Reporter. “There is no law in Oregon about sitting down at somebody’s machine when they’re not there.”
The report said Wollenschlaeger also admitted to saying, “(expletive) you, I didn’t steal your money.”
The state reported that Wollenschlaeger “more likely than not” knew there was money in the lottery machine and used it anyway, and that he should have expected that removing a reserved sign “would cause a problem.”
The report said Wollenschlaeger was dishonest in telling investigators that he didn’t see anyone at the lottery machine for more than ten minutes when the machine was only unoccupied for about two and a half minutes.
“Wollenschlaeger’s conduct created an inefficient operation of the (Marion County Sheriff’s Office) by bringing negative attention to the agency,” a department report said.
Wohlschlaeger was a deputy at the Lane County Sheriff’s Office for a year before he was hired in 1998 at Marion County, where he obtained basic, intermediate and advanced police certification, according to state records.
He went on a leave of absence in August 2018 – four months before the restaurant incident – and returned in August 2019.
Wohlschlaeger retired from the sheriff’s office in November 2019 through a settlement agreement “prior to any disciplinary decision being enacted,” according to the report. The agency “sustained a policy violation for Wollenschlaeger’s conduct related to the incident.”
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office and Woodburn Police Department separately investigated Wohlschlaeger in 2018 for official misconduct related to a criminal investigation involving a relative.
Wollenschlaeger failed to inform the investigating agency that he was conducting his own investigation, failed to write a police report documenting his actions and used “the systems available to him as a police officer to conduct the research,” according to the state report.
After prosecutors declined to press criminal charges, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office issued Wollenschlaeger “a written reprimand for his actions,” the report said.
“I was doing police work,” Wollenschlaeger told Salem Reporter.
The former deputy said his relative was the victim of a theft, which the Woodburn police “would not handle.” He said he was asked if he could check into it and he collected information, adding that he never contacted the suspect.
“I was solving crime,” he said. “I solved that sucker in a very short amount of time.”
Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.