Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Officer Mark Benton Arrested on Sexual Abuse Charges

Oregon State Police arrested an Athena police officer Monday on charges of sex crimes.

Athena Police Officer Mark Benton Ashcraft is in the Umatilla County Jail on charges of third-degree sodomy, second-degree sexual abuse and first-degree online sexual corruption of a child. The first two charges are Class C felonies in Oregon and the last is a Class B felony. Ashcraft has jail bonds totalling $22,500.

According to the Oregon Revised Statute, the charge of first-degree online sexual corruption means a defendant reasonably believes the victim to be under 16 years of age and "intentionally takes a substantial step toward physically meeting with or encountering the child. That step includes arranging a place and time to meet. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Dyann Swanson, Athena city recorder, said city officials are concerned about the matter, but it's also important to keep in mind Ashcraft is only a suspect at this time.

Ashcraft was a police officer in Pilot Rock for nine years before the smaller city of Athena hired him in December 2007. Swanson said while he was with Athena he had been a good employee.

"He came with a really great record," Swanson said.

Pilot Rock Mayor Virginia Carnes declined to comment on the case.

Lt. Greg Sherman with the Oregon State Police in Pendleton said Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa was handling all inquiries about the arrest.


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