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Dawn Holland in court, but without a lawyer: First high-profile Deschutes County case to run into public defender shortage

(Update: Adding video)

Critical shortage of court-appointed attorneys prompts governor to call for quick action

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – DAWNS House founder Dawn Holland made her first court appearance Thursday for arraignment on aggravated theft charges, accused of stealing over $300,000 from the nonprofit. But her court proceedings have been delayed over a month because no public defender was available to represent her.

Deschutes County Circuit Judge Randy Miller set a July 2 hearing to get an update on the status of providing a defense attorney for Holland.

Holland, 52, was indicted May 6 on nine counts of aggravated first-degree theft, a Class B felony, and one of first-degree theft, a Class C felony. Miller told Holland the nine aggravated theft counts each carry a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the Class C count has a maximum five-year prison term and $125,000 trial.

“You do have the right to have a trial,” the judge told Holland, who stood alone at the defense table, no attorney at her side.

NewsChannel 21 recently found a listing for a new rehabilitation center owned by Holland called Resilience Recovery Homes is listed as a life coach and recovery center just down the street from one of the closed buildings owned by DAWNS House. 

It's unclear if this recovery home is open yet, NewsChannel 21 called multiple times with no answer.

 Dawn Holland was at the home but refused to comment.

Holland was arrested when she went to the Bend Police headquarters after a warrant was issued. She  was booked at the county jail and released after posting 10 percent of her $50,000 bail.

Miller told Holland that while she qualifies for a court-appointed public defender, the Oregon Public Defender Commission “doesn’t have one for you yet, and they are supposed to work on that.”

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Brenneman told the judge prosecutors were not opposed to her current security release agreement continuing, which sets conditions that she have no contact with DAWNS House or any board members. She also cannot leave the state without court permission.

Asked if she had any questions, Holland replied, “No, sir,” and Miller said, "You are free to go," concluding the brief hearing.

In the order he signed after the hearing, Miller said, "The defendant qualifies for court-appointed counsel, but OPDC has failed to identify and make an attorney available for appointment."

"Defendant remains unrepresented at this time," the order stated. "OPDC is ordered to identify counsel for the defendant."

The public defender shortage that resulted in major issues for Portland-area courts has also extended to Deschutes County in recent months, in some cases leading to release from custody.

District Attorney Steve Gunnels told NewsChannel 21  he had no comment on the impact of the public defender shortage on this case, but he said, “This is going to be the situation for the foreseeable future due to rules established by OPDC and their failure to address the problem.”

Gunnels noted that Gov. Tina Kotek sent a letter last week to the Oregon Public Defense Commission, pointing to the pending Jan. 1, 2025 transfer of the OPDC from the judicial to the executive branch of state government and expressing her concerns about the lack of adequate public defense services.

“Chief among my concerns is that OPDC is unable to ensure that thousands of Oregonians have access to public defense attorneys,” Kotek wrote. “This is unacceptable. We cannot allow the current state of affairs to be normalized.”

The governor asked that OPDC provide her by August 1 “your plan to eliminate Oregon’s unrepresented client crisis in both the near and long term, and that plan should be based in the realities of the current fiscal and legislative environment.”

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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