Claremore Daily Progress

May 24, 2014

DA dismissive of remaining grand jury issues

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

District Attorney Janice Steidley contends a grand jury’s incomplete findings on claims she wrongly accused a police detective of perjury and misled federal officials in an employee firing dispute are meritless accusations by her detractors.

“I have been cleared,” said Steidley. “It is that simple.”

She made the statement in a Friday email responding to The Daily Progress’ request to comment on remaining issues involving her office before the state grand jury that’s been investigating allegations of wrongdoing in Rogers County the last six months.

An interim report released Tuesday by the grand jury concluded there was insufficient evidence to return probable cause indictments against the district attorney and her top assistants on nine criminal accusations contained in a petition signed by more than 7,000 county residents, including the county sheriff.  But the report also criticized Steidley for contributing to the harmful dysfunction of the county’s criminal justice system.

The grand jury reserved final comment on two other petition items:

That Steidley wrongly accused police investigator John Singer of perjury in a sex abuse case, prompting her to notify defense attorneys and judges of his alleged misconduct because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Giglio ruling. 

And that she misled U.S. Justice Department officials about the circumstances involving the termination of Eddie Griffin, an investigator in the DA’s office, in February of 2011. 

In the Singer matter, the grand jury said it heard extensive testimony surrounding Steidley’s claim the police detective lied in an interrogation report that said a 22-year-old sexual abuse suspect had confessed to digitally raping an underage teenager against her will in 2011. And that the Giglio ruling obligated the DA’s office to disclose information that could impeach Singer’s credibility as a prosecution witness in other cases.

The sex abuse charges against the defendant, Matthew Grant Sunday, were dropped by the district attorney in January of 2012, and he later pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Singer denied the perjury accusation, saying it was made 18 months after he investigated the case in retribution for his criticism of Steidley. He filed a federal lawsuit against the DA and her top assistant in February of 2013 on the ground they defamed him and also violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Federal  District Judge Gregory Frizzell tossed the defamation claim but allowed the free speech issue to proceed to trial.

In a partial finding, the grand jury said the issues at stake “raise complex constitutional and due process issues” regarding Steidley’s handling of the Singer matter, but they did not amount to her falsely reporting a crime. 

It also said there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Singer’s conduct constituted perjury.

The grand jury said it would “issue a more comprehensive finding on these Giglio issues in a future interim report where they can receive the full discussion they merit.”

Steidley, in her email response to The Daily Progress, said she “committed no criminal acts and the grand jury confirmed this. I am sorry you are disappointed that I was not wrongfully charged in this obvious smear campaign you have greatly assisted with. None of (the) allegations ever had merit.”

Singer’s attorney, Chad Neuens, said the grand jury findings refuted Steidley’s claim that the police officer committed perjury in the sex abuse case. 

“We also appreciate the grand jury’s confirmation of the fact that the district attorney has used and continues to use her power to stamp out political opposition from law enforcement and other Rogers County citizens who criticize her,” said Neuens.

Despite the grand jury’s suggestion that Steidley work more professionally with the law enforcement community, her email to The Daily Progress three days after the grand jury report continued to blame police authorities and the paper for the complaints against her.

“Here is the bottom line and you know this from reading the grand jury report - I have been cleared of all criminal allegations you and members of law enforcement made a media frenzy about,” said Steidley.

She added: “I did my job, I protected the people, I stood up for a person … who was said to have confessed to a crime when he did not confess and I have been attacked by certain members of law enforcement for doing my job.”

In the Griffin termination dispute, the grand jury said it spent limited time hearing evidence as the case is currently before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It said it would review the matter later “should the EEOC litigation result in findings of wrongdoing by any of the parties.”

Griffin claims he was unfairly fired after suffering a debilitating brain injury while attempting to subdue an out-of-control man in the DA’s office. Steidley’s email said his claim was “meritless.” She had said earlier his job was eliminated for financial reasons.

Read DA Steidley's Comment via email