CLAREMORE — District Attorney Janice Steidley has questioned a police detective’s credibility as a witness in a 2011 rape case, prompting objections from city officials and the detective, who says it could cost him his job.
Steidley recently mailed information to defense attorneys regarding Claremore Police Detective John F. Singer’s role in the rape conviction that involved the defendant admitting guilt in a videotaped interview with the detective.
Steidley says she must disclose the information because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that force prosecutors to turn over information that could help defendants refute the credibility of government witnesses, including police.
The withheld evidence - called Giglio material in reference to a 1972 Supreme Court case - can scar a police officer’s reputation.
Singer filed a motion Tuesday in Rogers County District Court to contest Steidley’s action, saying he was “informed by his superiors that if the material is, in fact, Giglio material, his employment with the Claremore Police Department will be terminated.”
“My concern in this matter is multi-faceted. Primarily I am troubled by the fact that I was informed by the DA that she and her staff had reached a conclusive determination of this officer’s wrongful or unlawful behavior 18 months after the alleged action occurred and three months after the case was resolved in court,” said Claremore Police Chief Stan Brown. “I am also puzzled by the fact that the DA has been using this officer for expert testimony and as a witness since the resolution of the case in which his alleged wrongful actions occurred. The DA advised me she had determined the action(s) rose to the level of Giglio impairment and she had already began the process of sharing that information with defense attorneys and other prosecutorial authorities”
City officials also filed a similar motion to intervene.
Singer and city officials are asking for a hearing before a judge to determine the validity of Steidley’s information in the rape case, which potentially could lead to appeals of convictions in other cases the detective investigated.
“We’re perplexed about why these allegations have arisen 18 months after the officer’s investigation ended,” city attorney Matt Ballard said in an interview, referring to the rape case. “The city does not agree with the district attorney’s allegations. We believe this matter should be decided by a neutral judge, rather than by unilateral action of the DA’s office that will destroy a distinguished officer’s career.”
“ The determination of the alleged wrongful act was based on evidence which she presented to me at that time. Immediately afterwards, I reviewed the evidence and am perplexed and categorically disagree with the DA’s conclusion as to the facts on which she based her determination,” said Brown. “In my opinion, the determination of validity of the allegations in such a matter should be determined by a finder of fact or court proceeding. The ramifications and destructive nature of such allegations against an officer with such an impeccable career demand that due process be granted when the facts are in such question. This is not a matter of trying to hide any dirty laundry in the Police Department. It is a matter of affording an Officer who has a track record such as this one due process, not convicting him or ostracizing him before he has been granted due process, one of the benchmarks of our justice system; a process which is allowed everyone alleged to have committed a crime or unlawful act.”
Steidley, who at first agreed to bring the matter to a judge but later changed her mind, said she has the authority to decide whether information about an officer’s credibility should be disclosed.
District Judge Dynda Post has issued a gag order on the lawyers involved in the rape of a juvenile, in which the defendant pled guilty.