Nasons face the future (mentions Buddy)

Date: 1996-02-21

By Eric Dolson

After five years of battling the State of Oregon, Diane and Dennis Nason have no idea what the next five years will bring.

A week after they each received a sentence of 60 days in jail and community service for convictions of racketeering and forgery (See story on page 1), Diane is still somewhat defiant. Dennis is stoic.

Both are uncertain what they will do after their "debt to society," as Diane ironically puts it, is paid for forging medical certificates for children as the family imploded under the pressure of collapsing finances, Diane's failing health and the strain of caring for and schooling 54 children at home (the Nasons parented a total of 82 biological and adopted children over the years. The last adoption was in 1990, according to Diane).

Both Nasons deny they committed the forgeries. Neither could speculate on who forged the medical documents.

"I don't believe that the jail time was fair. I believe it was a political and media appeasing thing," said Diane on Monday, February 19.

"I realize we are to say that we owe society something, for the jury that found us guilty of forgery. I don't believe that jury had the belief there was racketeering. Two of them (jurors) told our investigators that they had no intent for jail time," Diane said.

Dennis said that while he does "not understand the system, I feel Judge Sullivan was fair and honest and the jury did the best they could under the circumstances."

But he feels the system took his home and reputation and tore his family apart, "turning brother against brother, sister against sister. That is never going to change, there is nothing to remedy that."

Dennis is currently serving his sentence, released in the morning so he can work at his job at Lutton's Hardware. Diane expects to begin serving her sentence in April after Dennis returns and can care for the couple's three children, ages 6 through 19, still living at home.

Unlike her husband, Diane will not be released to work.

"I happen to think that taking care of children is important, but that doesn't fall under the job categories" allowed by the state for work release, she said.

Do the Nasons think they did anything wrong?

Dennis agreed the family grew too large, even though "it was hard to say no," when children in dire circumstances were offered to the Nasons.

"There was a time bomb in the home, with too many kids, too many at the same age. There was no way to defuse it..."

Diane said if a mistake was made, it was adopting older kids with severe emotional problems.

"That spilled over and affected other children. It was a mistake that we felt we could make a big difference with them."

Diane said these children's experiences prior to coming to the Nasons, sometimes of being raped and of raping (of which Diane said they were not informed) caused severe problems.

"That can be a very damaging thing," she said. "I don't believe they (these older, damaged children) belong in a large family, maybe not in a small family. They take an absolute toll in terms of time and energy."

Dennis said he would not adopt again, and that he would not recommend adoption for someone else, "and I never thought I would say that."

Diane does not believe she neglected her children.

"I did not think they were neglected at all...You don't raise them the same way as you would with two or three kids. Instead of one or two in your lap as you read a story, you have 10 clustered around.

"You don't take just one to a medical appointment, but three or four, so you can go out together for a hamburger.

"As humans, we will soak up whatever attention is lavished on us. But what you have to remember is that for about 90 percent of these children, there was no family where they came from.

"At the time we did not feel it lessened the parenting of the children. Now I listen to the older kids, and I have no doubt that at some point they felt they were not getting everything they could," Diane said.

But still, some of those older children now feel the large and diverse household made them better people, Diane said.

Will Diane write a book?

"That question comes up a lot," Diane smiled. "I am afraid if I wrote a book it would be an exposé of the government. I could not write a book without saying what I know. It would be so incredible, people would no believe it. I have seen things in the Social Security system, and the attorney general's office...

"I have gotten a good look at the people in the defense end of the system and the difference between them and the prosecution. The defense became like a family. They are wonderful people who believe in trying to implement justice.

"This has shed a new light on their lives. They have told us their lives will never be the same because of our case," Diane said.

Will she write that book?

"I don't know. I don't know if I want to be in the limelight, the fish bowl. I would like to enjoy what is left of my life with my children and grandchildren."

The Nasons don't know if they will stay in Sisters, don't know what their options are. The couple have lived in an apartment in Sisters for four years. Dennis said that after the tremendous support shown for them in Sisters, it would be very difficult to leave.

"I could not have gotten through this without that support, without people coming into the hardware store and saying `hang in there.' I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart."

Diane hopes to someday move to where she can have animals.

For the last five years, she said her time was not her own, she could not live the life she wanted to live. "I was raised on a ranch. I am not a town person. I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a town," she said.

After Dennis' wages are garnished for child support for some of the children taken from the family, there is very little money. The Nasons get by with help from friends, relatives, older kids. Somehow it works out, Diane said.

Dennis' plans may be shaped by something he learned in court when the judge asked adopted son Buddy if his Dad ever spent any time with him. Buddy said "No."

"That hurt. I had spent hours with Buddy, showing him how to fix his wheelchair, taking him to medical appointments," said Dennis. "But the way he said `no,' it made me realize that the time I spent with him wasn't the time Buddy wanted."

Buddy wanted time just in the shop with his Dad or on a river bank, Dennis realized.

He plans to take his sons fishing.
The sentence
Diane and Dennis Nason received suspended sentences last week in Deschutes County Circuit Court for forgery and racketeering and ordered by Judge Michael Sullivan to serve 60 day jail terms and perform community service work.

Specifically the sentences for the Nasons were:

Racketeering -- five years suspended sentence, 60 days in county jail (which began immediately);

Forgery -- 18 months suspended, 30 days in county jail to be served concurrently with the above jail term;

Undergo psychiatric examination;

Do not adopt or seek adoption, or become guardian and any more children.

In addition, Dennis Nason is to serve 360 hours on a county work crew. Diane was ordered to perform 120 hours community service to be determined by her probation officer. Her 60-day jail term is to begin the day Dennis completes his term.

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