The Rashaan Coley Case


This story is based on articles and editorials from The Oregonian on 8/30/2000, 8/31/2000, 9/2/2000, and 10/18/2003.

The Original Oregonian Article

The Oregonian banner headline read "Teen wins Measure 11 freedom fight". The article explained that Rashaan Coley was released from incarceration after 3 1/2 years because he was 7 hours short of 15 years old when he committed an armed robbery.

The article says that Coley, an eighth grader at the time, approached a 45-year-old man with two accomplices. Coley flashed a badge and then "Coley handcuffed the man and took his money, then removed the handcuffs." Police found a .22-caliber gun on Coley with a bullet in the chamber.

The article says "the other two youths were never arrested, though Coley says they were the ones who stole the money."

Marion County Judge Paul Lipscomb ruled that Coley must be released because he was not yet 15 when he committed the crime. The judge also said Coley's Robbery I conviction was improper because he never displayed the gun.

While in custody, Coley earned his GED diploma. He says he wants to got to college. He told the judge that "all my old neighborhood friends are in prison."

The Rest of the Story

The Oregonian painted a very pale picture of Rashaan Coley and his crime, as one can see by looking at the police report, which is paraphrased here.

Not yet 15 years old, Coley had a juvenile conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute and another conviction for drug distribution.

He gave police a false name and address. At the time, he was living in an apartment with a 17-year-old girl and claimed his mother was giving him money for living expenses.

The loaded gun found on Coley had been stolen in a car clout. The badge and handcuffs were stolen from Burns security.

Coley showed the victim his loaded gun, handcuffed him, robbed him, unhandcuffed him, shoved him to the ground and ran.

A passing witness saw what happened and tripped Coley, who was arrested by police.

Another witness saw his accomplices, a male and a female, run up the stairway of a parking facility and then run down. Police found a .357-magnum revolver in the stairway.

The victim said both guns were displayed during the robbery. The victim said Coley was the main participant in the robbery, not an accomplice.

Coley had been given the chance to plead to a Robbery II if he would identify his accomplices. He refused. They were never apprehended.

The Morals of the Story

There are two morals to this story.

First, a newspaper account of a crime is often a pale picture of what actually happened.

Second, and more important is this.

Rashaan Coley was not yet 15-years old and yet he already had drug convictions, was not living at home, was carrying a stolen, loaded weapon, and he handcuffed and robbed a person chosen at random. He had already been through juvenile court, to no apparent effect. According to him, all of his friends were prison-bound.

Where do you think Rashaan Coley's life was headed?

Now Coley was arrested and convicted of a Measure 11 crime and received a long sentence. While in custody, he received a high-school equivalency diploma. His aspirations now are to attend college. If we take him at his word, Rashaan Coley's life has been turned around.

Do you really think that this change would have occurred if Coley had remained in the juvenile court system and been allowed to shuttle between a youth corrections facility and the streets? Rashaan Coley doesn't think so. He told The Oregonian "If I'd only done a year in prison, I know I'd probably be in jail right now on a different charge."

And what about the people that Coley would have victimized during this period?

The citizens of Portland are should count themselves fortunate that he was convicted of a Measure 11 crime. And so should Rashaan Coley.


In August, 2002, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that, in the eyes of the law, Coley was 15-years old at the time of the crime. He was returned to custody.

In October of 2003, Coley pleaded guilty to charges of attempted assault stemming from an incident in which he hit his ex-girlfriend with a gun. As a convicted felon, Coley was prohibited from possessing a gun. This incident occurred in March, 2001, during the time Coley was out of custody based on Judge Lipscomb's ruling.

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