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The Weekend Minutes Weren't Free

June 20, 2004|From Associated Press

LA GRANDE, Ore. — A prosecutor was briefly sent to jail along with the man he helped convict of manslaughter after the lawyer refused a judge's order to turn on his cellphone.

Union County Dist. Atty. Martin Birnbaum was released Friday night after spending the evening in a La Grande cell about 40 feet away from the man he prosecuted.

Judge Phillip Mendiguren tried to reach Birnbaum with a jury question while the lawyer was on his lunch break Friday, Undersheriff Dana Wright said. When Birnbaum returned to court, Mendiguren ordered him to keep his cellphone on.

The prosecutor refused, and the judge cited him for contempt.

The jury eventually convicted Jeremy Wilson of manslaughter and assault in the shaking death of his girlfriend's child.

The prosecutor was to stay in jail until Sunday night, but was able to return home just before midnight Friday because of a state law that allows sheriffs to execute weekend releases early.

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