The 2014 Rogers County District Attorney election promises to be among the more intriguing local elections we’ve seen lately. We have already seen a cop suing the DA, the DA suing a newspaper and a judge seeking election to the DA’s office fired – at a meeting reportedly called by a relative of the current DA.
More than a year prior to the 2014 primary, pre-election tensions had already spilled over into a federal lawsuit in which a Claremore police detective sued the current district attorney. The detective, John Singer, alleged District Attorney Janice Steidley had damaged his reputation. Singer alleged Steidley had retaliated against him after learning that his wife intended to seek election to the district attorney’s office next year.
Then, on August 9, 2013, district judges in the Northeast Administrative District fired a special judge who had announced plans to seek election to the DA’s office. Former Special Judge Erin Oquin held court in Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties for 10 years before she was dismissed last week.
Media reports indicated no reason was provided in the order dismissing Oquin. She told the Tulsa World she did not know why she’d been fired from her job as judge. Oquin was quoted in the same report as saying a complaint had been leveled against her by another woman who is a potential political opponent. Oquin reportedly said she’d earlier advised the district judges she would run for district attorney and would resign her judicial duties at an appropriate time.
According to Tulsa World reports, the order dismissing Oquin stated it had been issued at a meeting attended by “all of the said district judges” in the Northeast district, with the exception of Presiding District Judge Dwayne Steidley (District 12) and District 13 Judge Robert Haney.
By the newspaper’s account, the order said Judge Dwayne Steidley had called the meeting but did not attend. The Tulsa World reported Judge Dwayne Steidley and District Attorney Janice Steidley are cousins by marriage.
Judge Steidley reportedly told the newspaper the other judges were treating Oquin’s dismissal as a personnel matter. In the same article, Oquin said she could only speculate as to the reason she was fired, but that people who know her “will know that it’s politics all the way around.”
DA Sued Local Newspaper
Further clouding public review of pre-election activities, Janice Steidley and an assistant filed a lawsuit against The Daily Progress – a daily newspaper in Claremore. The paper’s publisher, editor and a reporter were also named as respondents in that suit.
According to The Daily Progress, Janice Steidley’s lawsuit alleges two news stories and two editorial columns the paper published contained false statements but does not specify which statements were false or defamatory. One of the articles from Feb. 10, 2013 quoted a Pryor, Oklahoma police officer speaking about a meeting with Janice Steidley “over a political statement he made on his personal Facebook page,” the newspaper reported.
One editorial cited in the lawsuit criticized an assistant district attorney’s role in advising county commissioners. Another criticized Steidley and the assistant for their response to bid-splitting allegations. The newspaper indicated public officials rarely sue newspapers for libel, in part because of a high standard that requires a showing of actual malice before a false or incorrect media report can be adjudged as libelous.
Detective Rebuts Giglio Allegations
Claremore Detective John Singer’s conflict with the Roger’s County DA’s office involved his allegations that Steidley had improperly circulated among defense attorneys information regarding his role in a rape conviction. That information involved what is known as “Giglio” material – information that must be turned over to defense attorneys because it might help disprove the state’s case against a defendant.
According to The Daily Progress, a Claremore city attorney questioned why Steidley waited a year and a half after Singer’s investigation was over before she alerted defense attorneys to her suspicions that he’d withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.
If nothing else, it promises to be a lively election – for the next year and a half, if matters continue to erupt at the current pace. For our part, we would urge anyone facing charges in Rogers County not to rely on a hasty assumption that the DA is too busy with politics to keep up with her day job. Whether or not politics clouds any part of ongoing legal processes, representation by a qualified Rogers County defense attorney gives you the best chance of prevailing in court.
Free Consultation: Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney
When you’re charged with a crime in Rogers County, in Tulsa County or anywhere in Northeast Oklahoma, trust your case to someone who knows the local court system. Wirth Law Office has attorneys experienced in and ready to go to bat for you in the criminal courts in the areas where we provide legal representation.
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