Man arrested on harassment charges following alleged assault
A The Dalles man arrested in September on misdemeanor sexual harassment charges was released last week and Wasco County Circuit Court will hold a hearing on Wednesday (after press time) to determine his fitness to proceed and decide what steps to take next.
Carl William Claus, 61, currently faces one count each of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, Harassment, and Public Indecency, related to the harassment of a woman who delivered supplies to his trailer near Tie Plant Road during the wildfires this summer.
“I delivered him water and food,” said Anais Lowe. “This encounter led to sexual assault.”
Lowe, a journalism student at Western Washington University, spent some time in The Dalles this summer visiting her mother and teaching migrant students through the Columbia Gorge Education Service District. She made a last-minute trip back to The Dalles in September when she drove a friend home from school for a surgery.
Her time there coincided with the wildfires that greatly impacted air quality in the Gorge for the first few weeks of September. Lowe was aware of a houseless man in the community and, well-experienced with giving aid to people experiencing homelessness in other places she has lived, Lowe decided to bring him some supplies.
Lowe brought Claus fruit and water shortly before noon on Sept. 11, according to an incident report by The Dalles Police Department. After accepting the supplies, Claus asked her if he could show her the pumpkins he was growing in a garden across the street and, thinking he was “nice and harmless,” Lowe agreed.
“He’s showing me this green pumpkin, he leans down and kisses my leg,” said Lowe. She stepped back, but he did it again — this time kissing both her legs and her crotch. “I was just thinking I need to get out, and then he pulls down his pants and I said, ‘No thank you …”
She “booked it” back to her car and called the police.
Responding officers reported that, based on past contacts, they knew that Claus had “some mental capacity issues.” When questioned about Lowe’s account, Claus admitted that he kissed Lowe’s legs but denied taking his pants off. Police asked why he thought it was okay to kiss Lowe and Claus responded, “She said I could go buy what I wanted. I thought a little bit of attention was harmless.”
Claus was lodged at the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility (NORCOR) and later transferred to the Oregon State Hospital for a 24-hour psychiatric evaluation to determine his fitness to proceed.
If the court determines a defendant lacks fitness to proceed, ORS 161.370 requires courts to suspend the criminal proceeding against the defendant and receive a recommendation from a community mental health program director on what services and supervision are “necessary to safely allow the defendant to gain or regain fitness to proceed,” and whether they’re available in the community.
From there, the court is directed to hold a hearing to determine appropriate action, which could include dismissing all charges, releasing him on supervision, or setting up a “commitment for the defendant to gain or regain fitness to proceed.”
Claus’ legal counsel, Richard Balsley of Morris & Sullivan, filed a motion to dismiss all charges on Nov. 13, on the grounds that Claus is not fit to proceed and doesn’t meet the new “dangerousness and the acuity of symptoms” standards that ORS 161.370 now requires for a defendant to be committed to the State Hospital.
The revised standards for determining where to place defendants who lack fitness to proceed … “recognize that not all criminal defendants who lack fitness to proceed … need to be committed to the State Hospital or remain in jail, but instead should be served in the least restrictive environment that is clinically indicated,” reads a press release from Secretary of State’s office.
“A dismissal without prejudice protects both Mr. Claus’ interests and the interest of justice in the unlikely event that Mr. Claus regains his fitness to proceed,” said Balsley in the motion to dismiss.
“It is the state’s position that we should not give up on Mr. Claus, and we should take whatever steps are appropriate to provide some level of care for Mr. Claus,” said District Attorney Eric Nisley, acting as the prosecutor for the State of Oregon, in a memo dated Nov. 19. “Even if it amounts to a person visiting Mr. Claus once per week to offer him counseling, medication, or any other relevant services than an expert believes could assist Mr. Claus in regaining his ability to assist in his defense.”
With Claus back in The Dalles community, Lowe wants neighbors to be aware of Claus so that they don’t end up in a situation like she did.
“I have enjoyed my time teaching children in The Dalles and I would hate for them to have a similar situation occur.”