The parents of a young girl who police said was molested by the father of a playmate four years ago have gone public with their criticism of the district attorney’s handling of the sexual abuse case.
Chad and Kristen Rohr of Claremore spoke out after a judge Thursday approved a citizen petition drive aimed at forcing a grand jury investigation of the district attorney’s office.
Among complaints made in the petition was an accusation that Assistant District Attorney Timothy Wantland entered into a plea bargain with the defendant in the sexual abuse case without the parents’ consent or even notification of the court hearing on the matter.
The case involved a next-door neighbor, Tom Dougan, who was charged with lewd molestation of the Rohrs’ 3-year-old daughter on Aug. 16, 2009, following a birthday party for his 4-year-old playmate son. The child had told her parents and Claremore police that Dougan exposed his “winkie” to her, asked her to kiss it and touched her panties.
Three years later, Dougan entered into an agreement with the district attorney’s office to plead guilty to the lesser charge of indecent exposure. He was sentenced to three years in prison and seven years of probation, and ordered to register as a Level 1 (lowest level) sex-offender for 15 years.
The Rohrs said they were never told the charge would be reduced from a violent crime (lewd molestation) to a non-violent crime (indecent exposure). Had they been so advised, they said, they would have objected in court on the grounds that police reports and the defendant’s own admission supported the more serious child sex abuse charge.
But, the Rohrs added, they were never told of the court hearing in May of 2012 at which the plea bargain was presented and accepted and thus could not object or submit a victim’s impact statement on behalf of their daughter. They said the lewd molestation charge carried a greater prison term and would have required Dougan to report as a Level 3 (highest level) sex offender for life.
Wantland, who declined to talk to The Daily Progress, told Tulsa TV station KOTV that he conferred with the Rohrs before reducing the charge against Dougan. He said he told Chad Rohr, a Claremore police officer, that because the parents were not sure their daughter would be capable of testifying in court in the presence of the defendant, a conviction was unlikely. Wantland indicated Dougan would agree to an amended charge and be sent to prison as well as be required to register as a sex offender.
But Chad Rohr disputed Wantland’s depiction of the conversation. He said he had not learned of the plea agreement and the reduced charge until after the court hearing when he approached Wantland because the assistant DA had not been returning calls to the Rohrs.
“It was then that Wantland informed me the charges had been amended,” said Rohr.
Rohr added that he and his wife had met “a few times” with Wantland prior to the plea agreement hearing at which they discussed several aspects of the case but not reducing the charge from lewd molestation.
“I never agreed to an indecent exposure plea deal or anything,” said Rohr.
His wife, Kristen, said she also had never been told the charge would be reduced to indecent exposure. She also accused Wantland of misleading the judge who accepted the plea agreement by assuring him the parents had been consulted about the amended charge.
The petition for a grand jury investigation states that Wantland “willfully omitted to perform duties required of him by the Oklahoma Victims’ Rights Act” by not informing the Rohrs of the plea bargain details and depriving them of the right to make victim impact statements at Dougan’s sentencing.
Wantland told KOTV that if “there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding with the family, it was not intentional or underhanded.”