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Suspect in downtown Portland vandalism case released due to public defender shortage

Tyler Jaramillo was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly smashing the windows of multiple businesses. He was released due to the shortage of public defenders.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A man accused of breaking the windows of multiple businesses in downtown Portland with a street sign pole this week was released from custody because there wasn't an available attorney to represent him.

Tyler Jaramillo, 28, was arrested on Sept. 27 for first-degree criminal mischief.

On Tuesday around 12:30 a.m., officers responded to a report of vandalism near Southwest Salmon Street and Southwest 11th Avenue. Police found six businesses and one vehicle damaged along Salmon Street. Some of the businesses hit included Trek Bicycle, Bee Cleaners, Arlington Club, Benessere Inc. and Muse Model Management. Officers found Jaramillo in the area and took him into custody.

Jaramillo pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday afternoon. He's scheduled to appear back in court for attorney appointment in November.

RELATED: Man smashes windows with street sign pole at multiple businesses in downtown Portland

A judge did not outright dismiss Jaramillo's case, but she allowed him to be released due to the massive lack of public defenders.

Oregon has faced a dire shortage of public defenders over the past year. The crisis has led to dozens of dismissed cases and hundreds of defendants statewide without legal representation. 

Criminal defendants who have gone without legal representation filed a lawsuit in May alleging the state is violating their constitutional right to legal counsel and a speedy trial.

A significant decrease in court activity due to safety protocols during the pandemic resulted in a backlog of cases flooding the courts and defendants routinely had their hearing dates postponed. 

Public defenders warned that the system, which was underfunded and understaffed, was near collapse even before the pandemic. Now it's close to a breaking point. A report by the American Bar Association released in January found that Oregon has only 31% of the public defenders it needs. 

The state's public defense is run through the office of Public Defense Services, which secures and pays contracts to public defense firms. Oregon's system is the only one in the U.S. that relies completely on contractors.

RELATED: Head of Oregon’s troubled public defense system is fired

In an unprecedented move, Oregon's chief justice fired the members of the Public Defense Services Commission in August.

Chief Justice Martha Walters said in a letter to the commission members, that their duty was to "ensure that Oregon provides public defense services consistent with the Oregon Constitution, the United States Constitution, and Oregon and national standards of justice." Walters wrote, "Unfortunately, it is now clear that it is time to reconstitute the current commission."

According to state law, the chief justice appoints the commission members and can remove them.

Walters reinstated five of the members and appointed for new members. A few days later, she fired executive director Stephen Singer.

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