By Tim Eberly
With the emergence of new evidence, Oregon prosecutors last week dropped sex charges against Paul McCarthy, the former Hill County extension agent who has been suspended without pay since his Aug. 27 arrest.
The Benton County Circuit Court charges were dismissed Tuesday, after McCarthy's case went before a grand jury, which had been presented with favorable information in McCarthy's defense, according to court documents.
"I prayed every night for the truth to be known and it finally happened," McCarthy said today while cleaning out his office in the Hill County Courthouse. "After about a month of being investigated, I put myself in God's hands."
Said McCarthy's lawyer, Hubert Duvall, when reached at his Eugene, Ore., office: "I'm pleased that the district attorney has decided to dismiss this matter."
Two months after McCarthy, 48, took over as the Hill County agricultural cooperative extension agent for Montana State University's Extension Service, Hill County sheriff's deputies arrested him in late August on a warrant from Benton County, Ore. The charges included three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of fourth-degree assault, one count of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree unlawful penetration.
In the last five months, McCarthy had several pretrial hearings in preparation for an upcoming trial, which had not been scheduled. But when Duvall presented new evidence to the court he declined to reveal the specifics of his findings the case was re-presented to the grand jury.
"We were in a trial posture until very recently," Benton County District Attorney Scott Heiser said today. "With the additional evidence, the grand jury chose not to indict. We don't see cases in this posture very often."
Heiser also would not comment on the details of the evidence that led to the dismissal of the charges.
The charges stemmed from an incident with a woman in Corvallis, Ore., on the late evening hours of June 2 and early the next morning, Corvallis police detective David Henslee said in August. McCarthy was indicted on Aug. 9 in Corvallis, and the warrant for his arrest was issued the next day. After his arrest, McCarthy waived his right to fight extradiction on Aug. 29.
McCarthy had been dating the woman for about three months, and she had stayed at his home in Benton County briefly, McCarthy said today. The day before she made her accusations, he said, he had asked her to leave his residence.
"I can't really say I can forgive her," said McCarthy. "She'll be judged eventually, but not by me."
McCarthy said he and the woman had sexual intercourse on the night in question, but that it was consensual.
After his arrest, Montana State University suspended McCarthy with pay for several days before suspending him without pay and informing him that his contract would not be renewed this summer.
"The decision was based on the need to proceed with filling the vacancy," MSU spokeswoman Cathy Conover said of McCarthy's position, which still has not been filled. "I think the whole thing is unfortunate for him. We did have to make a hard decision."
McCarthy has returned to Havre to sell his home and tie up some loose ends. Later this week, he will likely return to Oregon, where he has been working as a volunteer research scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Corvallis.
"I think the way Montana State University has treated me has been irritating but fair," McCarthy said. "Under the circumstances, I definitely understand why they have treated me the way they did. In light of the fact that these charges have been dismissed, I would like to get my job back. But that's not going to happen."
Before moving to Montana, McCarthy held a post-doctorate research scientist position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Horticulture Crop Research Laboratory in Corvallis for one year. Prior to that, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Idaho in Moscow, also for a year. He received his doctorate in plant pathology from Idaho.