TODAYS TOP STORIES
Pardon and Parole Controversy, Allegations of Illegally Released Inmates and Secret Agendas
The Oklahoma County District Attorney levels accusations of
illegal releases and open meeting violations against the Oklahoma Pardon and
Parole Board. In a letter to the Pardon
and Parole Board Prater says the board committed “willful violations” of the
Oklahoma Open Meetings Act by putting inmates ineligible for parole on a secret
The family of Joseph Sharp was the first to notice something
was out of place. Mae Lene Chambers
killed Sharp when she was driving drunk in October 2006. She pled guilty and a judge sentenced her to
serve 10 years of a 25 year sentence.
The crime fell under Oklahoma’s
85% law requiring her to serve at least 85% of her sentence before being
eligible for parole. “We anticipated eight-and-a-half years so around eight years
we would start paying attention it's going to be coming up and we would be here,”
said Tim Sharp who’s father was the victim of the drunk-driving crash. “Had my aunt and mother not signed up on that
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) we would've not known. We would have been inquiring in four more
years and found out she'd been released back in 2012.”
Prater writes his investigation found members of the Pardon
and Parole board were putting inmates on a "Pre-Docket
Investigation," or "PDI," however in a review of the agendas the
DA says he found no mention of the PDI being mentioned or voted on. “I
determined that the Pardon & Parole Board was not notifying District
Attomey’s offices of their unqualified inmates being placed on the
“PDI” docket for early parole consideration,” Prater writes.
“unqualified inmates” are criminals convicted of crimes that fall under the
state’s 85% rule. The board says they
are able to violate the state law requiring a mandatory sentence by offering
commutations instead of parole. “I think the public would be shocked if they realized these
people were up for early consideration,” said Fox 25 Legal Analyst David Slane “And
keep in mind none of this was out before the public before Mr. prater brought
says any action taken by the board in secret is invalid and should result in
those inmates who were released being taken back into custody. However he says the Governor’s office needs
to work on a plan to fix what has happened.
“I think that's a huge can of worms,” Slane
said “I don't know that Mr. prater has the authority to summarily say it's
invalid, I think he may be right, but I don't know that it wouldn't require the
Oklahoma Supreme Court or a court to determine the action was invalid after
hearing whether or not the law was broken.”
Alex Weintz is Governor Mary Fallin’s communication
director. He says the Governor’s office
is taking the allegations seriously. In
a written statement Weintz says, “The governor is reviewing Mr. Prater’s
arguments thoroughly and working to ensure the Board is following both the
letter and the spirit of the law. Out of an abundance of caution, however, the
governor has asked and the Board has agreed to place a moratorium on the
practice of considering docket modifications during meetings."
In November Oklahoma Voters will get to choose if they wish
to keep the governor as part of the pardon and parole process for nonviolent
offenders. An audit of the Oklahoma
Department of Corrections estimated eliminated the governor would not only make
the parole process quicker, it could also save $40 million over the next 10
years. It’s a move that was championed
by state leaders and those connected to the corrections system. “If we can't trust
board, we can't trust it's management, we can't trust them to honor the will of
the legislature in placing an 85% rule in place and we can't trust that then I’m
starting to question whether all the years of effort of me and many others like
me to pass proactive legislative change was all worth it,” questions Robert Lee
Rainey an attorney and former member of the Board of Corrections.
Rainey says during his 12 years on
the corrections board he had a lot of interaction with the Pardon and Parole
Board. “As disappointed as I am to read
this it is a confirmation of what I saw over the last 12 years.” Rainey says he expressed concerns to current
and former board members, but his suggestions were not implemented. “There seemed to be a hyper focus and
attention by these board members on the offender files and not much attention
paid to proper corporate governance; including, but not limited to, whether or
not the board is routinely, regularly and vigorously conducting performance evaluations
of its director.”
Rainey says he still supports removing the governor from the
parole process but believes there needs to be more accountability within the
board to make sure the public’s trust in the criminal justice system is
think it is a process that could easily work and work well if people will
remain diligent and take their job seriously.”
The pardon and parole board refused requests for interviews, but in a statement
said they operate in full compliance with the Open Meetings Act. The statement did not address any of the
concerns about the secret agenda items or what could be a criminally-vague
agenda item. They also did not address
concerns the board had not conducted a performance review of the executive
The board’s statement says it will agree to the Governor’s request
for a moratorium and in addition, executive Director Terry Jenks writes, “the
Agency will request an Attorney General's Opinion regarding the 85% law and the
authority to place offenders on a docket for early consideration.”
General Scott Pruitt says his office is aware of Prater’s investigation. In a statement Pruitt says the allegations
are serious because 85% crimes are “some of the most heinous crimes committed
against Oklahomans. The Legislature established a clear requirement so that
victims and their families can be assured that an offender will serve no less
than 85 percent of their sentence.” Pruitt’s statement goes on to say, “Any practice,
policy or action taken by any board or commission to mitigate or change the
time served is wrong—and inconsistent with statute.”
Prater says his investigation is ongoing and could result in criminal charges
against the members of the Pardon and Parole Board. A violation of the Open Meetings Act carries
with it the possibility of up to a year behind bars and up to a $500 fine.
Prater’s full letter detailing the concerns against the Pardon and Parole
Board: http://www.okcfox.com//newsroom/features/files/Notice of Open
Meeting Act Violations to the Pardon and Parole Board_ichIb.pdf
Posted: Wednesday, August 8 2012, 10:25 PM CDT
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Seniors say they'll stay in tornado-ravaged town
May 25, 2013 14:46 GMT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Graduating high schoolers say they don't want to move away from Moore after a tornado devastated a section of their town.
Westmoore High School Senior Alex Davis says staying close is a way to show "that a disaster can't beat us."
And senior Cameron Knight says if he had a choice to live anywhere in the country, he'd still pick his hometown.
Westmoore was the first of three schools to hold commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City
The Oklahoma City suburb was hit by a strong tornado Monday; 24 people died and hundreds were injured.
The Moore School District canceled its school year after the tornado hit the Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools, but wants graduation ceremonies to go on.
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