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Juan Lara freed from prison two years early.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

Juan Lara, the ex-Eugene police officer sentenced in 2004 to five years and eight months in prison for his part in a sex scandal that stained the department, was released two years early Tuesday after completing an intensive six-month prison program.

Lara, 32, earned the reduction in his sentence for completing the SUMMIT program at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution near North Bend. The program is aimed at instilling discipline, work ethics and good attitudes in nonviolent inmates who show they are motivated to change.

Following his release, Lara faces a 90-day transitional leave period during which he will be closely supervised in the community. After the leave, he will have a two-year period of post-prison supervision. If he fails to follow his release plan during the leave, Lara could be returned to prison to serve the remaining two years of his sentence, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Perrin Damon said.

Lara pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct, coercion, harassment and public indecency for using his badge to coerce women into sexual acts. His conduct resulted in five lawsuits against the city, three of which have been settled for a total of more than $150,000. Two are set for trial.

None of the women named as victims could be reached Tuesday.

However, Eugene lawyer William Wheatley said the victim he represented in a civil suit is too frightened to discuss Lara's release or the continuing impact of his crimes on her life.

"She is afraid of retaliation," Wheatley said. "If she sees police cars go by now, she is not sure whether that is part of a plan."

Eugene lawyer Greg Veralrud, who represents two victims in the lawsuits yet to be settled, said his clients have told him they were "surprised and dismayed" to learn Lara would be released early.

The women's lawsuits were filed using only their initials. It is The Register-Guard's general policy not to identify victims of sex crimes.

Lara could not be reached for comment.

Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad said he opposed the Corrections Department's decision to allow Lara into the alternative incarceration program that shortened his sentence. State corrections officials have said they believe recent laws took away their discretion to ban individual inmates from such programs if they otherwise qualify.

In light of the department's policy, prosecutors statewide are modifying plea bargaining tactics to include whether defendants may apply for prison programs that may shorten their sentence, he said.

Scott Taylor, the state's community corrections chief, said alternative incarceration programs like SUMMIT aim to reduce crime by helping inmates change.

"We are very clear that the primary goal of the AIP is giving folks who are trying to make a change in their criminal lifestyles the opportunity and the tools to do that," Taylor said. "We are seeing that it makes a difference."

The state has no definitive study to measure the effect of AIP on repeat criminal activity, he said. Last year 514 of the state's 13,000 inmates were enrolled in alternatives. About 84 percent completed their program for an average sentence reduction of 12 months, according to department data.

A second Eugene officer sentenced in the sex scandal, Roger Magana, is not eligible for early release. He is serving a 94-year prison term for rape, kidnapping and sexual abuse, most of it covered by Measure 11.

Among terms of his release, Lara is required to remain in contact with a parole officer, to have no contact with minors, to complete a sex offender treatment program and to have no contact with his victims.
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Title Annotation:Crime; The convicted sex offender and former Eugene police officer earns a sentence cut
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 31, 2006
Previous Article:LET'S JUST BEE FRIENDS.

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