Since former District Attorney Eve Costello resigned last October, Klamath County has been awaiting the appointment of a new and qualified individual to fill the role.
Former Oregon Gov. Kate Brown reported in a news release that she intended to fill the position with an appointed official as mandated by state law.
An application period, which began Sept. 16 and ended Sept. 29, did not yield sufficient results and was then extended through Oct. 5, according to the governor’s news release.
During the extension, two applications were received for the position — Janae Bly, a local public defender, and current attorney and former Chief Deputy DA Cole Chase.
Bly, the owner of the newly founded law firm Bly Law, serves as a public defender on behalf of Klamath County Circuit Court, according to her business website.
While pursuing a law degree at the University of Oregon Law School, Bly worked as a law clerk for the District Attorney offices in Lane and Linn counties and as a writer and editor on behalf of the university’s domestic violence clinic.
After receiving her degree in 2014, Bly began her professional career as an attorney. From 2015 through 2021, she served as an associate attorney and later took on the role of deputy district attorney in Lane, Bethel and Klamath counties.
The other applicant, Chase, is currently serving as a staff attorney and executive director at LMT Defenders in Klamath County.
In previous years, Chase had been with the local district attorney’s office as a deputy DA from 2005 through 2014.
After nine years with the DA’s office, however, Chase was suspended and later resigned from his position following an altercation outside of the Basin Martini Bar in downtown Klamath Falls.
Court documents state Chase was indicted on an unlawful use of a firearm charge and other criminal offenses after allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at two men outside of the establishment on Oct. 24, 2014.
Coverage of the grand jury trial from Medford news station KOBI included testimony given by an eyewitness, Tawnia Shaw, who said Chase acted in self-defense.
“Cole, multiple times said ‘I’m not going to fight you, I don’t know who you are, what is your name’ — things like that, and Cole, I was actually pretty impressed — he kept a very cool, calm demeanor about himself even though he was obviously being attacked,” Shaw was quoted as saying.
During the trial, Shaw said Chase was followed by the men outside of the business, at which point Chase drew his gun.
A previous article in the Herald & News stated a civil suit filed by one of the alleged victims, Bradley Zimmer, sought $250,000 from Chase and the DA’s office for “severe emotional distress” according to court documents. As Chase was never served with notice of the lawsuit, the case was dismissed.
In March 2015, Chase pleaded no contest to two counts each of unlawful use of a firearm and menacing. The Oregon Bar Association suspended his license for six months and placed him on probation for 18 months, during which he could not serve as an attorney for a public agency. He was allowed to continue in private practice during probation.
Upon successful completion of his criminal probation and court-ordered courses May 11, 2018, Chase was re-hired to his previous position by Costello.
Costello told the Herald & News that Chase had assured her his actions would reflect upon her office kindly.
“He has dedicated himself to ensure he upholds our office’s reputation,” Costello said.
Costello later promoted Chase to Chief Deputy District Attorney. Chase resigned from his position with the DA last June.
By the end of her term as governor, Brown did not appoint either candidate.
According to Governor’s Office press secretary Elisabeth Shepard, Brown felt the previous applicants were “unqualified.”
This led to the former governor’s decision to direct the Oregon Department of Justice to oversee the Klamath County District Attorney’s office until an appointment was made, according to a memorandum of understanding that went before the Klamath County Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 6.
The MOU also listed DOJ assistant attorney general John Casalino as the interim DA, serving until an appointment is made.
Last week, Gov. Tina Kotek re-opened the application period for the appointed position until 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16.
Shepard said the governor’s office is seeking an individual that community members and elected officials approve of and will “apprise experience.”
“We really just want to see who from the community is willing to stand up and willing to do this position,” Shepard said.