Tulsa Undersheriff Resigns After Investigation Into Preferential Treatment for Robert Bates

April 28, 205
David Lee
TULSA (CN) – The Tulsa County Sheriff’s second-in-command has resigned for allegedly demanding preferential treatment for the volunteer reserve deputy who later killed a suspect after mistaking his gun for a Taser.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz announced Monday the resignation of Undersheriff Tim Albin, a 20-year veteran of the force. His resignation is effective at the end of the week
Robert Bates, a volunteer reserve deputy and insurance agent, faces manslaughter charges after a body camera recorded him mistakenly shooting to death an unarmed black suspect, Eric Courtney Harris, on April 2. Bates is white.
The footage shows Harris running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down, held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard. Bates immediately apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot. An officer is heard saying, “Fuck your breath,” as Harris screams he is losing his breath.
If convicted, Bates faces up to four years in state prison.
Glanz told the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners he has looked inside his office the find “what we could have done better and need to do differently” since Harris’ death.
“As a result of my own examination, I believe it is time for a change in my leadership team,” Glanz said. “Given the gravity of the current situation and the need to go in a different direction without leadership and management, [Albin] agrees with me that it is time for a change.”
In a 2009 interoffice memo disclosed on April 24, sheriff’s office investigators detail the findings of a special investigation into whether Bates was treated any differently than other reserve deputies and if any employees were pressured into helping Bates in that regard.
Corporal Warren Crittenden told investigators he felt pressured by Albin and another officer towards the end of Bates’ field training that the training must be completed by a certain time.
Albin and the other officer “came to him and told him that Bates needed to complete 320 hours of the program, although he knew the policy stated 480 hours of training,” the 13-page report stated. “That Captain [Tom] Huckeby was aggressively/forceful in telling him ‘this will be done,’ referring to the training timeline.”
Crittenden signed the documents because “he was afraid of trouble” such as a transfer if he did not comply.
“I would have asked him to do remedial training after the 328 hours … he deals with people and geography ok … but not really good at traffic stops or operations,” Crittenden stated. “When asked if Bates was capable of functioning in the field, Crittenden stated ‘Nope.'”
Sergeant Randy Chapman told investigators that Bates became a reserve deputy without his knowledge. Chapman was reserve coordinator and “should have known this.” He said that he notified Albin that Bates was driving a personally-owned car with police equipment in violation of policy, among other things, and that Albin told him to “just let it go.”
Chapman said that when he confronted Bates about stopping cars on his own without the required training, Bates purportedly responded negatively and told him to talk to Albin or Glanza because he was going to keep doing it.
Chapman said that when he spoke to Albin about Bates, Albin said “I’m tired of you fucking with this guy and I’m tired of your shit … you’re dicking with Bates … you need to stop messing with him because he does a lot of good for the county.”
Wealthy donors are among the office’s 130 reserve deputies, Glanz said shortly after Harris’ death. Bates donated several vehicles, guns and stun guns since he became a reserve deputy in 2008.

From Courthouse News.

Recusal Talk in Case Against White Volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy Is Premature, Judge Says

April 24, 2015
By David Lee
TULSA (CN) – It is premature to talk about recusal in a closely followed Tulsa manslaughter case against a white volunteer sheriff’s deputy, a judge with ties to the sheriff’s office said Friday.
Robert Bates, 73, faces manslaughter charges after a body camera recorded him mistakenly shooting to death an unarmed black suspect, Eric Courtney Harris, 44, on April 2.
The footage shows Harris running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down, held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard. Bates immediately apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot. An officer is heard saying, “Fuck your breath,” as Harris screams he is losing his breath.
Tulsa County District Judge James Caputo was randomly assigned the criminal case against Bates. He made headlines Thursday after disclosing that he used to work at the sheriff’s office for seven years and that his daughter was also an employee there.
Caputo said none of the parties have asked him to recuse himself yet, but that he was considering it.
In a press release Friday clarifying those comments, Caputo said he “made a pledge that I would never shy away from any case assigned me.”
“While this case has been randomly assigned to me as the trial judge, I do not yet have jurisdiction of the case,” Caputo’s statement says. “The case is currently set for preliminary hearing at which time a probably cause magistrate must determine if there is probable [cause] that a crime was committed and if there is probably cause that this defendant committed the alleged crime.”
Caputo cited his track record of impartiality in an earlier case against Andrew Dennehy, who was tried for the shooting of a sheriff’s deputy.
“Neither party requested that I recuse in that case knowing my relationship with the sheriff’s office,” Caputo said. “I tried this case to a jury verdict. A verdict that wasn’t appealed. This case demonstrated that no matter the parties, or victims may be, I can maintain [my] duty and be true to my oath.”
Bates faces up to four years in state prison. Days after he was charged, the volunteer sheriff’s deputy publicly apologized to Harris’ family.
“I thought to myself after reading several cases, ‘I don’t understand how this can happen,'” Bates said on April 17. “You must believe me, it can happen to anyone.”
Bates said that after he heard the gunshot, he thought “Oh my God, what has happened?”
Each weapon he carried has a laser to indicate the target.
“I saw the light and I squeezed the trigger, and then realized I dropped the gun,” he said. “This was not an intentional thing. I had no desire to ever take anyone’s life.”
Bates has denied reports that other sheriff’s deputies were ordered to falsify his training records.

From Courthouse News.

Managers Fight Over Cowboys’ Dez Bryant

April 22, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Rapper Jay Z’s management company tortiously interfered with Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s contract with the agency that helped build his “Throw up the X” brand, Official Brands claims in court.
Florida-based Official Brands sued Roc Nation and its sports subsidiary Roc Nation Sports on Tuesday in Dallas County Court.
Neither Bryant nor Roc Nation founder Sean “Jay Z” Carter are parties to the lawsuit.
Bryant, Known for celebrating touchdowns by crossing his arms above his head in an “X,” was franchise-tagged by the Cowboys in March, resulting in a one-year, $12.823 million contract.
One of the top wide receivers in the NFL, Bryant is expected to receive lucrative long-term contract offers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.
Official Brands claims Bryant asked its vice president, Ryan Totka, to handle his off-field interests, resulting in the signing of a two-year contract between Official Brands and Dez I Enterprises in July 2014.
Official Brands said it provided “unprecedented services” to build Bryant’s “Throw up the X” brand and “invested substantial time and money” in doing so.
It says it oversaw Bryants social media accounts, created and managed his personal website, provided tickets to Bryant’s family to Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games and assisted with charity events.
“Following defendants’ signing of Dez Bryant to a standard representation agreement in November 2014, defendant embarked on a scheme to utilize its employees to unlawfully induce Dez Bryant to terminated Dez I Enterprises Inc.’s contract with plaintiff and to shift all of his off-field business, including the ‘Throw up the X’ brand to defendants,” the complaint states.
“The tactics used by defendants to induce Dez Bryant to terminate Dez I Enterprises Inc.’s contract with plaintiff included unsolicited contact with Dez Bryant and making false and disparaging statements to Dez Bryant concerning plaintiff and Ryan Totka, as well as, upon information and belief, providing Dez Bryant with numerous improper enticements in order to induce Dez Bryant to terminate the contract and relationship with plaintiff and Ryan Totka.”
Official Brands claims it had business discussions with Bryant as late as this year’s Super Bowl, but after contact was suddenly cut off on Feb. 24, it received a cease and desist letter from Bryant’s attorney telling it to stop all uses of “Throw up the X.”
Official Brands said Roc Nation and its employees made “material false and disparaging statements” to Bryant to get him to break his contract and move his off-field business to Roc Nation Sports.
Roc Nation Sports declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Founded in 2013, the sports division has quickly signed several big-name professional athletes, including Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, boxer Miguel Cotto, Seattle Mariners second basemen Robinson Cano and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Official Brands seeks actual and punitive damages for tortious interference. It is represented by John Nation in Dallas.

From Courthouse News.

IRS Slaps Wyly Brothers With Record $3.2 Billion Tax Bill

April 17, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Former Texas billionaire Sam Wyly and his deceased brother owe $3.2 billion in back taxes and penalties for hiding money in foreign trust funds, the Internal Revenue Service says.
The IRS told a federal bankruptcy judge this week that Wyly owes $2 billion for unpaid taxes from 1992 to 2010, more than $9 million since 2012 and that the estate of Charles Wyly owes $1 billion.
It’s believed to be the largest tax levy the IRS has ever demanded from individuals.
Wyly, 77, of Dallas, a philanthropist and contributor to Republican causes, made his fortune co-founding Sterling Software in 1981 and buying an interest in arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels in 1982. Sterling was sold for $4 billion in 2000 and Michaels Stores for $6 billion in 2006.
A Manhattan federal jury in May 2014 found Wyly and his brother’s estate guilty of making illegal trades.
In March this year, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered them to pay more than $198 million in disgorgement and interest in an SEC case.
The SEC sued the Wylys in 2010, accusing them of playing a “global game of hopscotch” by hiding assets in their four companies – Sterling, Michaels, Sterling Commerce, and Scottish Annuity & Life Holdings Ltd. – from 1992 to 2004.
At trial, the SEC accused the brothers of making $550 million from more than 700 undisclosed transactions in 40 companies operated by Isle of Man trusts that shuffled money between the Cayman Islands and Dallas.
Sam Wyly filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2014. He said Wednesday that he “respectfully disagrees” with the IRS demand.
“Filings were made with the SEC and IRS by knowledgeable and honest CPAs and lawyers who had to deal with legalese sometimes defined in different ways in different parts of the regulations written by the same agency or the other agencies,” Wyly said in a statement.
The Wylys’ attorney, Stewart H. Thomas with Hallett Perrin in Dallas, called the IRS demands “unfair and absurd.”
Twenty-three percent of the demand is for taxes owed, the rest for penalties and interest since 1992, Thomas said.
“The Wylys have always filed income tax returns and have reported every bit of income they have earned every year,” Thomas told the Dallas Business Journal. “They have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in income taxes to the IRS during this period of time.”
The IRS knew about the transactions for 23 years but never told the Wylys that “they owe a penny of additional tax,” Thomas said.
“Now they seek billions of dollars in interest back to 1992,” Thomas said. “This is unjust.”

From Courthouse News.

Tulsa Sheriff’s Volunteer Apologizes for Killing

April 17, 2015
By David Lee
TULSA (CN) – The 73-year-old volunteer sheriff’s deputy who killed an unarmed black man in Tulsa apologized to the man’s family Friday, and rebutted claims that his own training records had been falsified.
“First and foremost, let me apologize to the family of Eric Harris,” Robert Bates said Friday on the NBC “Today” show. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
Bates said he thought he was firing his Taser at Harris – but it was his gun.
Bates killed 44-year-old Eric Courtney Harris, on April 2.
In a body camera video released by the Tulsa County Sheriff, Harris is shown running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down and held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard.
Bates apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot.
As Bates lies on the ground screaming that he is losing his breath, an officer says, “Fuck your breath.”
The Sheriff’s Department said it was arresting Harris in an undercover investigation of illegal gun sales.
Bates was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. He is free on $25,000 bond.
If convicted, he faces up to four years in state prison.
Bates said Harris’ death was “the second worst thing that has ever happened to me,” besides a cancer diagnoses that he survived. He later said it is the “number one on my list of things in my life that I regret.”
When asked to show where he kept his gun and Taser on his body, Bates stood up and indicated the Taser was on his left side under a protective vest, and his gun was on his right hip. Bates said he had read about similar mistakes in news stories.
“I thought to myself after reading several cases, ‘I don’t understand how this can happen,'” Bates said. “You must believe me, it can happen to anyone.”
Bates said that after he heard the gunshot, he thought “Oh my God, what has happened?”
Each weapon he carried has a laser to indicate the target.
“I saw the light and I squeezed the trigger, and then realized I dropped the gun,” he said. “This was not an intentional thing. I had no desire to ever take anyone’s life.”
The Tulsa World newspaper reported that Bates’ supervisors were transferred after they refused to sign papers that he had received state-required training.
The unidentified deputies were ordered to falsify Bates’ training records to give him credit for field training he never took, and for firearms certifications he should not have received, multiple anonymous sources told the newspaper.
Flanked by his family and attorney Clark Brewster in Tulsa, Bates said the reports were incorrect. He said he was qualified to be working the streets as a reserve officer.
“That is absolutely the truth,” Bates said. “I have it in writing.”
Clark questioned the credibility of the newspaper’s sources, saying the report centered on documents from a sheriff’s official who was fired seven years ago and his since been charged with first-degree murder.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Attorney Generals Pushes Bibles in Public Schools

April 16, 2015
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma’s attorney general is helping public schools give students “religious literature,” despite an atheist group’s threat to sue if schools keep allowing the Gideons to hand out Bibles.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Tuesday sent a letter to the state’s school superintendents, citing letters sent to them by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“Typically, FFRF seeks to use threats of litigation in order to silence American citizens’ exercise of their religious liberties in their correspondence,” Pruitt wrote. “In this instance, their threats revolve around whether Oklahomans have the right to distribute religious literature in a school. I am therefore writing to make clear that it is in fact legal for schools to allow the dissemination of religious literature and that I will take a stand to defend the religious freedom of Oklahomans.”
Pruitt said school districts can allow private citizens to hand out religious literature, and that districts need to “simply enact a neutral policy” allowing “equal access” for anyone to do it.
“The school board just needs to craft a policy that takes into account several important factors under the law,” Pruitt wrote. “For example, the policy should address where distribution can take place, whether to allow the literature in all schools or only for certain grade levels, and what time of the day it can occur.”
Pruitt said he was concerned that “anti-religion groups” may “threaten and intimidate educators,” and asked the superintendents to inform his office of any such threats.
“We are organizing training for stakeholders in our educational system to clarify the laws and how to defend your constitutional freedoms,” the letter said. “As we are developing the curriculum, we would like input from you on specific issues which may need to be covered.”
Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Andrew L. Seidel wrote to Eufaula Public Schools Superintendent Jeannette Smith in February about members of Gideons International being allowed to hand out copies of the New Testament.
“We understand that you probably had no prior knowledge of this distribution,”Seidel wrote. “The Gideons operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards. They advise their members to seek permission at the lowest level of authority … it is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit the distribution of Bibles as part of the public school day.”
Federal courts have “uniformly held” the practice is illegal, the letter stated.
“This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags,” Seidel wrote. “In allowing Gideons to distribute Bibles to elementary school students, the district is impermissibly endorsing religion by placing its ‘stamp of approval’ on the religious messages.”
Pruitt disagreed.
“Conspicuously absent from the group’s claims is the fact that courts have upheld the right of citizen groups to share religious literature at public schools just like non-religious groups, such as the 4-H Club or Cub Scouts,” Pruitt said in a statement. “I will not stand idly by while out-of-state groups challenge the liberties of Oklahoma citizens.”
In June 2014, FFRF asked the Midlothian Independent School District in North Texas to remove a Christian plaque from the entrance of an elementary school.
The school district initially covered up the plaque, but reversed course two months later and uncovered it. The school district said its attorney advised that it would lose in court if the plaque remained.
In 2012, the FFRF persuaded the Kountze Independent School District in East Texas to remove religious verses from football game banners. Several cheerleaders then sued the school district and then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott intervened on the students’ behalf.

From Courthouse News.

Training of Killer Volunteer Deputy Questioned

April 16, 2015
By David Lee
TULSA (CN) – The training of a volunteer Tulsa sheriff’s deputy who shot an unarmed black man to death is being called into question amid allegations of records tampering.
Robert C. Bates, 73, a white volunteer reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department, was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. He is free on $25,000 bond.
The April 2 death of Eric Courtney Harris, 44, was recorded on a deputy’s body camera and is one of the latest examples of police violence against black men .
In the video released by the sheriff’s office last Friday, Harris is shown running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down, held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard. Bates immediately apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot. As Harris screams that he can’t breathe, an officer says, “Fuck your breath.”
Police said Harris was being arrested in an undercover investigation of illegal gun sales.
Three of Bates’ supervisors were transferred after they refused to sign papers that he had received state-required training, The Tulsa World reported Wednesday.
The unidentified deputies were ordered to falsify Bates’ training records to give him credit for field training he never took, and for firearms certifications he should not have received, multiple anonymous sources told the newspaper.
As an “advanced reserve” deputy, Bates should have received 480 hours of the Field Training Officer program. An attorney for the Sheriff’s Office declined The World’s request for records showing which supervisors signed off on Bates’ training.
In a statement to investigators, Bates said he has been involved in more than 100 assignments, had attended a five-day homicide investigation school in Dallas and was trained in “active shooter response” by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona.
Bates, a wealthy insurance agent, has donated money and equipment in addition to his time to the sheriff’s department. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma criticized Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz this week for “buy a badge” practices that allow “favored friends and wealthy donors to Oklahoma sheriffs to carry guns and badges as reserve deputies” with far less training and experience than professional deputies.
“Eric Harris is dead today as the result of an utterly reckless program that allows donors to buy a badge and play police officer with real guns and real bullets,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Eric Keisel.
“Oklahomans deserve police departments that are staffed by professionals and who are financed with our tax dollars and held accountable to the public. If someone wants to volunteer to help their fellow citizens cross the street during special events like the State Fair, we have no objection, but to give volunteers weapons and put them in situations like the one that ended the life of Eric Harris is dangerous and foolish.”
Keisel also criticized the “disgusting” response and “callous and dehumanizing approach” of the sheriff’s deputy who swore at Harris as he lost his breath after being shot.
ACLU of Oklahoma legal director Brady Henderson asked why Bates tried to use a Taser at all.
“When Harris was already being held on the ground and no longer fleeing deputies, why was it necessary to launch metal hooks carrying 50,000 volts into his body? If Bob Bates had reached for his Taser instead of his gun, he might not have committed a manslaughter, but his use of force likely would not have been reasonable, rational, or legal,” Henderson said.
“What happened to Eric Harris was not just ‘a mistake,’ it was the result of a series of choices that show a reckless disregard for human dignity and human life.”

From Courthouse News.