Los Angeles authorities should have been aware that Miley Cyrus' Video Music Awards date, 22-year-old Jesse Helt, is wanted in Oregon, according to Martin Silbernagel, Community Corrections director for Polk County.
When asked if the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department had previously been notified that Helt had a warrant for his arrest in Polk County, Oregon, Silbernagel says, “Yes, all of the above.”
Helt had come to L.A. and was at a youth homeless center called My Friend's Place in Hollywood when the pop star dropped in for a visit recently:
She invited him to be her date to the VMAs, and Helt accepted her award for video of the year while calling attention to homelessness.
After the Sunday night awards, however, it was revealed that Helt was wanted in Oregon. Silbernagel told us he had a “probation warrant for criminal trespass.”
The Associated Press had this account of his case:
According to court records, he broke into the apartment of a man who had been selling what Helt believed to be bad marijuana.
Helt, who was 18 at the time, pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and criminal trespass, both misdemeanors, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and probation. The arrest warrant was issued in November 2011 after he violated probation.
Helt subsequently moved to Los Angeles and was homeless as he reportedly tried to make it as a a model. Silbernagel said L.A. authorities were notified about Helt several months ago.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman told us he was unaware that Helt had a warrant for his arrest in Oregon. A Los Angeles County Probation Department official said it was possible local authorities were aware he was wanted, but that Helt could have been a low-level offender whose warrant status would be triggered only if he was arrested and booked into a local jail.
There are no L.A. County Sheriff's Department records of a man by Helt's name and age having been arrested in recent months.
After stories about his background surfaced, Cyrus took to Twitter to defend Helt.
“People who are homeless have lived very hard lives,” she said. “Jesse included. I hope that this can be the start of a national conversation about youth homelessness and how to end it.”
[Updated at 2:51 p.m.]: Silbernagel said authorities believe Helt is back in Oregon visiting his mother. “We're looking for him up here,” he said.