OKLAHOMA CITY — Two former Oklahoma lawmakers will go to trial on Oct 21 on felony bribery charges, an Oklahoma County district judge decided Wednesday.
District Judge Cindy Truong scheduled the trial date for former state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, after the judge who had been handling the case, District Judge Glenn Jones, announced that he was stepping aside.
During a brief hearing, Jones told Terrill, Leftwith and attorneys in the case that his wife, Doneen Douglas Jones, is employed at the Fellers Snider law firm in Oklahoma City, the same law firm that employs Leftwich’s defense attorney, Robert McCampbell. Court rules require judges to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“I am disqualified from the case,” Glenn Jones said. Court administrators then assigned the case to Truong.
The developments are the latest in a prosecution already dragging into its third year. District Attorney David Prater filed charges in December 2010 accusing Terrill of offering a bribe and Leftwich of soliciting or accepting a bribe. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Terrill and Leftwich schemed to set Leftwich up in an $80,000-a-year job at the state Medical Examiner’s Office so a Republican colleague of Terrill’s could run for her open seat in 2010.
Along with bribery, prosecutors attempted to charge Terrill and Leftwith with conspiracy. But the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals last month upheld former Special Judge Stephen Alcorn’s November 2011 ruling that there was insufficient evidence to try the two former lawmakers for conspiracy.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, McCampbell said he thought the appeals court’s ruling on the conspiracy charges would make it difficult for prosecutors to go ahead with the bribery charges.
“We will be filing a motion to dismiss next week,” McCampbell said. Pre-trial motions in the case will be heard on July 25.
Prosecutors allege that Terrill offered Leftwich the job at the Medical Examiner’s Office so her open Senate seat might go to Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City. Christian campaigned for the Senate seat but pulled out of the race when the bribery investigation became public. He was not charged and was re-elected to his House seat.
An affidavit filed in the case says Terrill wrote a bill that would create the job of “transition coordinator” at the Medical Examiner’s Office for Leftwich and used a separate bill to divert $90,000 to the office from a fund at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. Former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed both measures after the bribery allegations surfaced.
Defense attorneys have said Terrill didn’t have the authority to promise Leftwich a job, and that Leftwich wasn’t technically a candidate for re-election because she never filed the required paperwork with the state Election Board. Terrill left the Legislature last year.
If convicted, the former lawmakers face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.