Original article no longer available
By Karen McCowan
Published: Jan 26, 2009 11:08PM
A Eugene woman who seriously injured a Lane County sheriff’s deputy during an October assault at the Lane County Jail was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for the attack and other crimes, including identity theft and a failed escape attempt.
Jennifer Ann Cox, 28, pleaded guilty to felony charges of second-degree assault, strangulation and assaulting a public safety officer during the Oct. 12 incident. The assault charge is a Measure 11 offense, meaning Cox must serve her entire five-year sentence for that act.
She had also been charged with attempted murder in the incident, which began when she grabbed a pen from a jail office and used it to attack the deputy as she got shampoo Cox had requested. Deputy Lane County District Attorney Erik Hasselman told Lane Circuit Judge Maurice Merten that the deputy knocked the pen away by banging Cox’s hand against a door frame, but that Cox then wrapped her arm around the deputy’s neck and choked her until she nearly lost consciousness. Hasselman said Cox told the deputy repeatedly that she intended to kill her, and repeated the threat to another deputy who came to her aid.
Hasselman said the injured deputy has been unable to work since the incident, and is scheduled for surgery to repair a severely herniated spinal disk as a result of the assault. The Register-Guard does not identify crime victims.
The attempted murder charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement.
Cox’s sentence also included concurrent prison time for an Oct. 27 escape attempt in which she removed a jail ceiling tile and tried to crawl away through air ducts. Hasselman said deputies were able to pull her out of the duct work, which is designed so inmates can’t get outside the jail.
Deputy District Attorney William Warnisher, who prosecuted Cox on the identity theft charges for which she was in custody at the time of the jailhouse attack, asked Merten to impose two consecutive, 13-month sentences for those crimes, which arose from Cox’s unauthorized use of a credit card belonging to an elderly man who’d given her a place to stay while on probation from a 2005 theft.
Cox’s attorney, William Ray, asked Merten to consider his client’s troubled past in determining that sentence.
Ray said Cox was a victim of child abuse who joined the military at age 18. During her service, she suffered a back injury that left her 40 percent disabled with chronic pain, he said. Ray said her dependence on pain medication led her to commit the property crimes.
He said Cox had a history of chronic depression and suicidal thoughts as well as an addiction to painkillers, and had voluntarily checked herself into a Veterans Administration hospital for treatment of her mental health problems. She was taking antidepressants prescribed during her hospital stay when she was arrested for violating her probation in the 2005 theft case, he said. She was forced off her antidepressant medication when jailed on that probation violation, he said, which led to her act of desperation in the jail.
“She was looking for something other than incarceration, something where she could get her medication that’s what this was all about,” he said.
The slight, wiry Cox wept and repeatedly blew her nose and shook her head throughout the hearing. In her only comment, she told Merten in a soft voice that she was sorry for her crimes.
Merten made the two identity theft sentences consecutive to the assault sentence, for a total of seven years. That sentence comes on top of the 72 months she received after having her probation revoked on 2005 theft case.