District Attorney Janice Steidley and two top assistants Wednesday filed a wide-ranging defamation lawsuit against the sponsors of a citizens petition to impanel a grand jury investigation of the prosecutors.
DA Steidley and Assistant District Attorneys David Iski and M. Bryce Lair submitted the suit one day after Tulsa County District Court Judge Jefferson Seller’s rejected the grand jury petition containing 6,944 voter signatures on grounds it contained unauthorized information.
The suit contends DA Steidley and her assistants were wrongly and maliciously accused of criminal and civil misconduct by the grand jury petition sponsors, and that they also conspired to destroy evidence connected to the contested petition.
“The documents destroyed included folders of information that were presented to the citizens of Rogers County,” the suit said.
The suit also said, “The false statements contained in the unauthorized petition were made by defendants in bad faith, with malice and with the specific intent of harming plaintiff’s reputations and careers.”
The suit was filed by Steidley’s outside attorney, Joel L. Wohlgemuth of Tulsa, in the Rogers County District Court.
Defendants are Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, Claremore police officers John Singer and Steve Cox, businessmen Russell Guilfoyle and Myron Grubowski, and Billy D. Jones, the father of two rape victims.
The defamation complaint also lists 25 John Does who the suit said are residents of Rogers County and who will be identified later during the legal action’s discovery phase.
It said the unnamed defendants “created, drafted, circulated, or otherwise republished” allegations contained in the grand jury petition.
The latest court action is yet another development in what has become a tangled legal web that includes the citizens petition campaign, Singer filing a federal lawsuit against DA Steidley, and Steidley and her assistants filing an earlier defamation suit against The Daily Progress.
The latest suit accused the petition sponsors of “willful, wanton, heinous, grossly negligent, or reckless conduct for which they should be punished by an award to the plaintiffs … to render the consequences of their conduct an example to themselves and others.”
To make that point, it asked for more than $20,000 in actual damages on two counts of defamation, and punitive damages of at least $500,000 or, if not that, twice the amount of actual damages. DA Steidley and her assistants also asked the court to order the petition sponsors to pay for their outside attorney fees.