No Rogers County Officials Indicted
An Oklahoma grand jury has recommended that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office draft model policies to guide prosecutors’ handling of information that could assist criminal defendants. The recommendation was the most substantive result of a grand-jury investigation into alleged wrongdoing among Rogers County prosecutors and police.
The clock ran out on the grand jury with one set of allegations still on the table. A future grand jury should look into allegations that certain Rogers County commissioners engaged in bid splitting and unauthorized use of county equipment for work on private property, the 14th multi-county grand jury’s report concluded.
Otherwise, the grand jury returned harsh words but no indictments against police and prosecutors named in various allegations that led to the grand jury’s investigation. The panel investigated allegations leveled in a citizen’s grand jury petition containing 7,358 signatures a judge in October, 2013 tossed out on technical grounds.
Read More: Rogers County Controversies Timeline
An Appearance of Political Motivation
The District Attorney’s inconsistent release of information that can help defendants “creates an appearance that the manner in which (Claremore detective John Singer’s) Giglio determination was handled was politically motivated,” the grand jury concluded.
In reaching its conclusions, the grand jury noted that Rogers County District Attorney Janice Steidley released information that called Singer’s credibility into question 18 months after she first found out about the matter. Steidley released the information around the time Singer’s wife “began making overtures to run against (Steidley) in the 2014 district attorney’s election, the grand jury stated.
The panel also criticized Singer for his handling of the case that led to Steidley’s release of information 18 months later. The report provides the most specific detail to date about allegations that Singer falsely claimed a defendant had admitted the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl.
In an arrest affidavit, Singer alleged a suspect admitted he engaged in sexual activity with a 16-year-old girl against her will. In the interview, the suspect said he did not get the impression the girl objected. “I didn’t – honestly, I did not get that from her.”
The suspect said he only learned after the fact that the girl did not want him to touch her, or in Singer’s words that he “had a problem” and “things had gone to far.”
“At a minimun (Singer) should have taken much greater care to use precise language in the Probable Cause Affidavit,” the grand jury concluded.
In calling for a statewide policy for release of Giglio material, the grand jury noted that Steidley’s office in 2011 had decided not to treat as Giglio material a protective order previously filed in Washington state against a district attorney’s investigator in her office. The same month Steidley’s office released the Singer material, her office refused to release statements by Rogers County Deputy Adam Hull until ordered to do so by a court.
Court Oversight of Giglio Could Go Too Far
Giglio material refers to evidence in prosecutors’ possession that could potentially benefit a defendant. John Giglio was a defendant convicted of forgery until the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction because prosecutors had failed to disclose a deal with a witness who testified against him. (Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972))
While the grand jury’s recommendation promotes standardized procedures for releasing Giglio material, the procedure the recommend could potentially curtail release of some information. The grand jury recommended that judges first review some potential Giglio material to determine if it should be released to defense attorneys. The panel’s report did not clarify which material might qualify for judicial review before it is released to defense attorneys.
Prosecutors currently release such material at their discretion – and at risk of being sanctioned by judges for failing to release required information. Defense attorneys might argue that an extra layer of judicial review creates needless delays and interferes with the U.S. Supreme Court directives that say potentially exculpatory evidence must be handed over.
Steidley Files Another Libel Lawsuit
On the same day the grand jury returned its final report, Steidley filed another lawsuit against some of those involved in organizing the petition drive that sparked the grand jury investigation. This time, Steidley targeted Tulsa attorney Bill Higgins, and former Rogers County special judge Erin O’Quin along with Singer’s former wife, his mother and his stepfather (Edith Singer, Sally Williams and Carl William).
Steidley on Oct. 16, 2013 filed a lawsuit against Singer, Rogers County sheriff Scott Walton, four other named individuals and 25 John Doe defendants involved in the 2013 grand jury petition drive. Both of the lawsuits cite what the lawsuit calls “bogus claims” in the citizens’ grand jury petition drive. In her latest lawsuit, Steidley alleges those named in her suit libeled her and cost her the election. She garnered only about 13 percent of the three-way vote in June 24 Republican primary.
Steidley’s lawsuits against those who circulated the petitions say the grand jury found she had broken no laws:
“The multi-county grand jury found no illegal acts had been committed by Plaintiffs, and the Plaintiffs were exonerated.”
To be precise, the report did not say what Steidley did or did not do, but rather addressed the sufficiency of evidence. The grand jury’s May, 2014 interim report released in 11 circumstances found “insufficient evidence” to prosecute allegations lodged in the citizens petition.
Whether the report exonerated anybody may be a matter of perspective. In its own words, the grand jury said its purpose was not to declare winners and losers:
“The intervention by this Grand Jury into the matters of Rogers County during this term was simply about one thing: restoring the trust and confidence to the citizens of Rogers County that someone independent would thoroughly investigate whether wrongdoing had been perpetrated, and if so, prosecute. It was not to declare victory for either law enforcement or prosecutor in their competing versions of what transpired locally.”
If you have been charged with a crime, you have a right to tell the court when police officers testimony might not be reliable. Oklahoma defense attorneys are the ones who can make a determination if a police officer’s past might raise doubts about testimony against you.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Defense Attorney
For a free, confidential consultation with a Tulsa criminal attorney about Giglio material or any evidence in a criminal case, call the Wirth Law Office at (918) 879-1681. You may also send the Tulsa defense attorney your question using the form at the top of this page.