Claremore Daily Progress

February 4, 2013

Det. Singer files suit against DA

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Claremore Police Detective John F. Singer asked a federal court Monday to block the District Attorney’s Office from disseminating information that he contends falsely accuses him of improperly testifying in an old criminal case.

The request was contained in a motion for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against District Attorney Janice Steidley, her first assistant, M. Bryce Lair, and the state of Oklahoma.
The U.S. District Court for Oklahoma’s Northern District took no immediate action on the motion. It is expected a hearing will be held on the motion at which time both parties can present their arguments for and against it. 
Steidley had no immediate comment on the motion, the complete text of which is posted below.
The federal filing is the latest action in a dispute between Singer and Steidley over whether he violated the so-called Giglio rule that prohibits police officers and other public officials from withholding crucial information or testifying falsely in criminal cases.
A week ago, Singer filed a motion in Rogers County District Court to contest Steidley’s distribution of information questioning the police detective’s credibility as a witness in a 2011 rape case.
Steidley has said she was obligated to notify defense attorneys in several criminal cases investigated by Singer of what she believed was misconduct. 
She could not be reached for reaction to Singer’s federal court request that she be prohibited from further distribution of the accusatory information.
In his federal court motion, Singer said dissemination of the information threatens his career as a law enforcement officer, and would cause “irreparable injury” to his reputation. 
He made similar assertions last week in his state court filing.
“Because of Singer’s exemplary record as a law enforcement officer, Steidley and Lair decided to manufacture evidence that Singer had acted improperly during the investigation of one of his cases, and then  used this manufactured evidence against Singer in order to destroy his career and ruin his reputation,” the detective’s attorney said in the federal motion.
“Steidley and Lair chose a case that Singer had investigated over 18 months prior and determined, without judicial determination and without affording Singer due process, that Singer had acted improperly.”
The motion also said the District Attorney’s Office had distributed “other falsehoods” against Singer.
The federal motion implied that Steidley’s distribution of information about Singer’s conduct stemmed from anger over the detective’s decision not to work with a criminal investigator hired by Steidley because of credibility questions; Singer’s criticism of  Steidley for failure to prosecute drug cases, and Steidley’s concern that Singer’s wife, a lawyer, might run for district attorney in 2014. The motion accused Steidley and Lair of conducting “a concerted action to retaliate against Singer and to intimidate him by destroying Singer’s career as a law enforcement officer and his reputation with the public and within the law enforcement community.”

 

Court Filing

 

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA

JOHN F. SINGER, an Individual,

(Plaintiff, ) 

v. 

JANICE STEIDLEY, Individually and as

District Attorney for District #12 (Craig,

Mayes and Rogers County), State of

Oklahoma; and M. BRYCE LAIR,

Individually and as First Assistant

District Attorney for District #12 (Craig,

Mayes and Rogers County), State of

Oklahoma,

Defendants.  

 

PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Plaintiff, John F. Singer (“Singer”), by and through his counsel, submits his Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (“Motion”).  In support of his Motion, Singer states as follows: 

Introduction Based on the conduct of the Defendants, Janice Steidley, Individually and as District Attorney for District #12 (Craig, Mayes and Rogers County), State of Oklahoma  (“Steidley”); and M. Bryce Lair, Individually and as First Assistant District Attorney for District #12 (Craig, Mayes and Rogers County), State of Oklahoma  (“Lair”) (collectively, “Defendants”), Singer seeks an Order from this Court: (1) granting an immediate Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the Defendants from further disseminating any alleged Giglio Material or other falsehoods relating to Singer; and (2) granting a Preliminary Injunction enjoining the Defendants from further disseminating any alleged Giglio Material or other falsehoods relating to Singer.

Facts Supporting Injunctive Relief 

1. Singer is an employee of the Claremore Police Department (“CPD”).  He became a patrol officer for CPD in 2000, and then was promoted to Investigator in 2005.  

2. Singer has been the lead investigator in multiple violent murders and large scale Federal drug conspiracies.  Singer also has considerable experience as a narcotics investigator and has purchased controlled substances in an undercover capacity in excess of 100 occasions. 

On a daily basis, Singer is responsible for investigating serious crimes within the City of Claremore, ranging from child abuse and sex crimes to white collar crimes.  Singer is regularly called upon by other agencies in northeast Oklahoma to assist in the investigation of major crimes.

3. In addition to his duties with CPD, Singer has been commissioned as a Special Deputy for the United States Marshals Service in the Northern District of Oklahoma.  In this capacity, Singer serves on the Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force, the purpose of which is to locate and apprehend federal and state fugitives wanted for violent crimes.

4. Singer is certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a Drug Recognition Expert and instructor, regularly teaching the topic in Oklahoma and elsewhere to police officers, teachers, school administrators and parents.  Singer is an expert in the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine and teaches the topic to law enforcement officers and first responders from across Oklahoma.

5. Singer has been decorated numerous times for his law enforcement accomplishments, including being twice named Narcotics Investigator of the Year by the Association of Oklahoma Narcotics Officers, and being named Officer of the Year by the Rogers County Law Enforcement Association.

6. In June of 2010, Defendant Steidley approached Singer, informed him that she intended on running for the office of District Attorney for District 12, and requested his assistance in obtaining the support of local police departments.  Singer agreed, and was instrumental in Steidley’s eventual election as District Attorney.

7. Defendant Steidley appointed Defendant Lair as her First Assistant District Attorney.

8. Soon after Steidley was elected District Attorney, Singer came to the conclusion that Steidley’s performance as District Attorney was substandard, and therefore became and has remained a vocal critic of her performance as District Attorney.

9. Subsequent to her election, Singer participated in a background check of a criminal investigator hired by Steidley, and determined that the investigator’s background contained a number of issues that would require disclosure to attorneys defending prosecutions in which he was involved, pursuant to United States v. Giglio, 405 U.S. 150 (1972) (“Giglio Material”).  Singer notified Steidley of this information, and explained Giglio Material to Steidley, as she was not familiar with the case or the concept.  

10. Singer also informed Steidley that he would not work on any cases with this Giglio-impaired investigator, nor would he allow the investigator to become involved in any of Singer’s cases.  This angered Steidley greatly.

11. In the fall of 2012, Steidley inquired of Singer through an agent as to whether Singer’s wife intended on running against Steidley in 2014 for the office of District Attorney. Immediately after this conversation, Steidley made clear that she intended on starting her 2014 campaign immediately.

12. On January 6, 2013, The Claremore Daily Progress published an article that was critical of Steidley’s performance as District Attorney with regard to the prosecution of drug offenses (“January 6 Article”).  All of the drug prosecutions referenced in the January 6 Article were investigated by Singer.  

13. Soon after publication of the January 6 Article, and due to Singer’s criticisms of the District Attorneys’ office, his participation in the background investigation of the District Attorneys’ investigator, Steidley’s concern that Singer’s wife was going to run against her for District Attorney, and their assumption that Singer was the principal source for the January 6 Article, Steidley and Lair commenced a concerted action to retaliate against Singer and to intimidate him by destroying Singer’s career as a law enforcement officer and his reputation both with the public and within the law enforcement community.

14. Because of Singer’s exemplary record as a law enforcement officer, Steidley and Lair decided to manufacture evidence that Singer had acted improperly during the investigation of one of his cases, and then use this manufactured evidence against Singer in order to destroy his career and ruin his reputation.  Steidley and Lair chose a case that Singer had investigated over 18 months prior and determined, without a judicial determination and without affording Singer due process, that Singer had acted improperly.

15. After making their determination that Singer had acted improperly, Steidley and Lair then decided that their manufactured evidence constituted Giglio Material, and therefore needed to be disclosed to criminal defense counsel in cases investigated by Singer.  The determination that their manufactured evidence constituted Giglio Material was made without a judicial determination and without affording Singer due process.

16. With their manufactured evidence in hand, Steidley and Lair took the following actions to discredit Singer in the public, with law enforcement and with the legal community:

a.  On or about January 7, 2013, Steidley and Lair approached the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and presented his office with their manufactured evidence;

b.  On or about January 8, 2013, Steidley and Lair approached Singer’s superior, Chief Stan Brown of the CPD, and presented him with their manufactured evidence;

c.  On or about January 9, 2013, Steidley and Lair approached Chief Dennis Nichols of the Pryor Police Department, and presented him with their manufactured evidence;

d. On or about January 14, 2013, Steidley signaled her intention to disclose the manufactured Giglio Material relating to Singer to criminal defense counsel in cases that had been investigated by Singer;

e.  On or about January 17, 2013, Steidley leaked her intention to file charges against Singer for his alleged wrongful conduct;

f.  Also on or about January 17, 2013, Lair, through his close friend, Josh Lee, disclosed the existence of the manufactured Giglio Material relating to Singer on the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney Website;

g.  On or about January 25, 2013, Steidley and Lair disclosed the manufactured Giglio Material to defense counsel in Rogers County District Court Case Nos. CF-2012-551 and JD-2012-20.

h.  On or about January 29, 2013, Lair provided a statement to the Claremore Daily Progress that Giglio Material existed with regard to Singer, and that the District Attorneys’ office did not need to have a judicial finding on this issue.

i.  On or about January 30, 2013, Steidley provided a lengthy interview to the Claremore Daily Progress concerning the manufactured Giglio Material.

17. As a result of Defendants’ unlawful and tortious conduct,  and their violation of Singer’s clearly established constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, Singer’s constitutionally-protected property interest in his employment, good name, reputation and integrity has been severely and irrevocably damaged.

18. Singer relies on his reputation as a criminal investigator in order to continue his work with the Claremore Police Department, the United States Marshal’s Office, and the Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force.

19. Defendants’ actions in disseminating the alleged Giglio Material relating to Singer in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights and in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights have harmed and lowered Singer’s reputation in the public and the law enforcement community.  

 20. Specifically, Defendants’ actions have already caused Singer significant, irreparable damage to his reputation and employment with the Claremore Police Department.  In fact, Singer has been informed by his superiors that, if the material in question is, in fact, Giglio Material, his employment will be terminated.

 21. In addition, Singer’s effectiveness as an investigator for the Claremore Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service has been and will continue to be severely and irreparably damaged by the dissemination of the alleged Giglio Material, because he will be subject to attacks on his credibility each and every time that he testifies on behalf of the prosecution in State and Federal Court.

Argument and Authorities

I.  A Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Is Necessary to Prevent the Defendants from Further Disseminating Alleged Giglio Material or other Falsehoods Regarding Singer.

The Tenth Circuit requires a party seeking temporary injunctive relief to establish the following: (1) a substantial likelihood that Plaintiff will succeed on the merits; (2) Plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction issues; (3) the threatened injury to Plaintiff outweighs whatever injury caused to Defendant by the issuance of the injunction; and (4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Reproductive Services v. Keating, 35 F.Supp.2d 1332, 1334 (N.D. Okla. 1998).  A movant seeking a temporary restraining order must satisfy essentially the same elements: (1) a substantial likelihood that he will prevail on the merits; (2) irreparable harm unless the restraining order is issued; (3) greater harm to the applicant than the adversary’s harm resulting from issuance of a temporary restraining order; and (4) the absence of an adverse impact on the public interest.  Thomas v. Carson, 30 Fed.Appx. 770 (10th Cir. 2002).  Singer can satisfy each element of the analysis.  

As to the first element, likelihood of success on the merits, the Tenth Circuit has held that a party need only establish a prima facie case showing a reasonable probability that he is entitled to the relief sought.  Autoskill, Inc. v. National Educ. Support Systems, Inc., 994 F.2d 1476, 1487 (10th Cir. 1993), overruled on other grounds by TW Telecom Holdings Inc. v. Carolina Internet Ltd., 661 F.3d 495 (10th Cir. 2011).  In the present case, Singer must establish that he has “raised questions going to the merits so serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful, as to make them a fair ground for litigation and thus for more deliberate investigation.”  Id.  Singer has met this burden.  

Singer, as a public employee, has a constitutionally protected property interest in continued employment.  Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538-39 (1985). 

Singer’s property interest in his job is implicated, notwithstanding the fact that he is still employed as of the filing of this Motion.  See Gilbert v. Homar, 520 U.S. 924, 929, (1997); Izquierdo v. Sills, 68 F.Supp.2d 392, 420 (D.Del. 1999).  Singer also has a constitutionally protected interest in his reputation as a law enforcement officer: “Where a person’s good name, reputation, honor or integrity is at stake because of what the government is doing to him” the minimal requirements of the Clause must be satisfied.  Wisconsin v. Constantineau, 400 U.S. 433, 437 (1971); Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 573, (1972).  

Furthermore, Defendants’ conduct is in retaliation for Singer’s exercise of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.  Loss of First Amendment freedoms, even for a minimal period of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.  Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373, (1976) (Brennan, J., concurring).

Singer has made ample factual allegations in his Verified Complaint to demonstrate the Defendants’ wrongful conduct in violating his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

 Second, Singer has already suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm if the Court fails to grant injunctive relief.  The Defendants’ conduct has already caused Singer harm with regard to his employment at the Claremore Police Department and the United States Marshal’s office.  Defendants’ further publication of alleged Giglio Material relating to Singer without any due process to Singer and in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights will only serve to further damage his reputation in the community and his occupation as a law enforcement officer.  In fact, if Defendants are allowed to continue their conduct, it is clear that Singer’s effectiveness as a criminal investigator will be destroyed, and he will be terminated from his employment. 

Third, a grant of injunctive relief would have relatively little effect on the Defendants. 

They would simply be enjoined from engaging in further publication of alleged Giglio Material pending a determination by this Court as to whether the information concerning Singer is actually Giglio Material.  The relief requested by Singer is aimed only at maintaining his employment and his reputation in the public and the law enforcement community. 

Finally, there are no public policy concerns arising out of the issuance of injunctive relief.

To issue injunctive relief under the circumstances of this case, where the Defendants have

violated both the First and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, would only protect Singer’s rights under Federal law. 

II. Efforts to Provide Notice to Opposing Parties.

 Counsel for Singer has provided notice via facsimile today to Defendant Steidley, which notice included a copy of the Verified Complaint filed in this action and the present Motion, along with correspondence from counsel notifying Defendant Steidley of counsel’s intention to present this Motion to the Court today.  Counsel has also submitted the Verified Complaint, present motion and correspondence to the U.S. Marshals for personal service, but as of the filing of this Motion service has not been accomplished.  Counsel has not provided notice to Defendant  Lair.  It is counsel’s understanding that Defendant Lair is currently on vacation in Hawaii and counsel does not have contact information for Defendant Lair.   Counsel asserts that no further notice to Defendants is necessary before issuance of a temporary restraining order in this case due to the nature of Defendants’ actions and the resulting irreparable harm to Singer. 

Conclusion

The Defendants’ conduct has already caused Singer extensive damage to his reputation

and employment.  The Defendants’ ongoing publication of alleged Giglio Material and other falsehoods regarding Singer requires immediate injunctive relief to prevent further damage toSinger. 

WHEREFORE, John F. Singer respectfully requests the Court to enter an Order: (1) granting an immediate Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the Defendants and any of their employees or agents from further disseminating alleged Giglio Material and publishing other falsehoods regarding Singer; (2) granting a Preliminary Injunction enjoining the Defendants and any of their agents and employees from further disseminating alleged Giglio Material and publishing other falsehoods regarding Singer; and (3) awarding Singer all other relief to which he is entitled.