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Prosecutor’s mouth and might earn him admirers and animosity May 29, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Halfway through the book reading, the prosecutor decided that he had heard enough; the author was clearly wrong. Even though he was in a church, not a courtroom, and the listeners around him made up an audience, not a jury, Norm Frink rose to object.

Loudly announcing that he was a deputy district attorney, Frink poured out a torrent of accusations: “The distortions you are peddling are not true! . . . These people need to know the truth!”

In the audience that May 2006 night at the First Unitarian Church, Portland lawyer Ronald Atwood watched Frink, appalled at such behavior from a public official. Three days later, Atwood wrote to Frink’s boss, District Attorney Michael Schrunk.

“When one individual attempts to shout down another with accusations rather than an exchange of ideas, the conduct is thuggish,” Atwood’s letter said. “Mr. Frink was embarrassing, rude and acted as a bully.”

Those words and many others like them have been applied for decades to Norman William Frink Jr., a relentless, aggressive, throw-away-the-key career prosecutor who tells people exactly what he thinks — usually in excruciating detail — and who plays not just to win but to force opponents to admit defeat.

For 30 years, in courtrooms, in the Legislature, before the news media and among friends, Frink, 54, has employed intellect, ambition and force of personality to mold Oregon’s criminal laws to his world view. Among his victories was the 1994 passage of mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent criminals.

With the club of Ballot Measure 11 in hand, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Frink works as Schrunk’s expediter and enforcer, personally approving a large majority of the major plea agreements in Multnomah County’s 1914 courthouse, the state’s busiest.

Frink sees himself as simply a contrarian who leans right politically but who reads and thinks more than most people in lefty Portland — and who isn’t afraid to point that out.

“A lot of people here never, ever have certain viewpoints they may have challenged. And they never talk to anybody who they think has got any brains who thinks differently than they do,” Frink says. “It’s always healthy to have someone sometimes suggest that perhaps there’s an alternate viewpoint that somebody who doesn’t drool all the time might have.”

Schrunk has heard all the complaints about his senior deputy, and he sighs with feigned exhaustion. Frink is no diplomat, Schrunk acknowledges. But diplomats can’t process nearly 6,500 felonies a year.




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