Joshua B. Christoffersen, 40, faces charges of unlawful entry into a motor vehicle and possession of methamphetamines. (Photo courtesy of Malheur County Sheriff’s Office)
VALE – It took a day and a half for law enforcement from three agencies to locate Joshua B. Christoffersen and only three minutes and 30 seconds for the Malheur County Circuit Court to release him last week.
Christoffersen, 40, of Caldwell, is the suspect in a botched burglary out of Harper in the early hours of New Year’s Eve. A convicted felon in Idaho, Christoffersen was being held at the Malheur County Jail on charges of first-degree aggravated theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
A day after he was captured by deputies in a manhunt over the New Year holiday, Christoffersen was released following his arraignment Thursday, Jan. 2.
His release triggered outrage on social media and questioning of prosecutors.
At the short hearing, Nathan Rupp, Malheur County deputy district attorney who was filling in the case, told Circuit Judge Erin Landis that “the state does not oppose release” but asked that Christoffersen be required to report daily to the Malheur County Community Corrections office in Ontario.
He said Christoffersen has an “extensive criminal history” and history of methaphetamine use.
Landis agreed to the conditions, including barring the defendant from any contact with the theft victim, and Christoffersen was freed that afternoon.
Prosecutors will seek to indict Christoffersen and he has been scheduled to return to Malheur County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Jan. 28, to be arraigned on an indictment.
Dave Goldthorpe, Malheur County district attorney, took responsibility for the release.
He said the prosecutor handling the arraignment wasn’t given all the necessary information beforehand.
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“I would have wanted the judge to have more information about the efforts that went into apprehending the defendant, since that would have been an obvious basis for an argument against release,” Goldthorpe said in a written statement.
He said Christofferen otherwise could have been held on $30,000 bail.
He said prosecutors consider a variety of factors in advising a judge whether a defendant can be freed pending trial.
“When we don’t have any major concerns, it is not uncommon for my office to agree to conditional release,” Goldthorpe said.
Christoffersen couldn’t be reached for comment and his attorney, Doug Rock of Ontario, didn’t respond to a telephone message.
Police said a thief was loading the equipment at an unoccupied home near Harper when Ty Ingram, a neighbor, intervened. Ingram said in an interview with the Enterprise that he exchanged gunfire with the thief before chasing him for about a half hour west on Highway 20 toward Juntura.
The thief fled in a pickup truck stolen Dec. 30 in Marsing, Idaho, and ended up on a rural road near the Harney-Malheur county line.
According to an affidavit, two shotguns and a pump action .22 rifle were located inside the stolen pickup.
Ingram said he was upset when he heard Christoffersen had been released.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Ingram said.
His family worried for his safety. He said he spent that night at home, but sent his children away.
Christoffersen’s criminal history in Idaho dates back to 2001. According to the Idaho Department of Correction, he was placed on probation in Canyon County that year for possession of a controlled substance.
In 2005 he was convicted for possession of a controlled substance, eluding a police officer and illegal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to Idaho state prison, serving from Nov. 30, 2005, until July 14, 2008, when he was released on parole, Idaho officials said. Christoffersen completed parole in 2012.
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Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377
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