Claremore Daily Progress

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March 12, 2014

Sheriff, 2 others out of libel suit

Prosecutors formally file dismissal motion

CLAREMORE — Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, businessman Russell Guilfoyle and resident Billy D. Jones are no longer defendants in the defamation  lawsuit by District Attorney Janice Steidley and two assistants against sponsors of last fall's failed citizens petition for a local grand jury investigation of the prosecutors.

Steidley, Assistant District Attorney David Iski and former Assistant District Attorney Bryce Lair filed the formal dismissal motion earlier this week, removing the trio from the libel complaint that claims the prosecutors were wrongly accused in the petition of malfeasance and corruption in office.

The dismissal resulted from a recent mediated agreement in which Walton, Guilfoyle and Jones agreed to pay $25,000 toward the prosecutors' outside legal expenses in return for removing them as defendants.

Remaining defendants include Claremore police officers John Singer and Steve Cox, businessman Myron Grubowski, and 25 unnamed “John Does” who were presumably involved in circulating the petition signed by more than 7,700 Rogers County voters. Cox and Grubowski refused to sign the mediated agreement to also dismiss them from the suit. Singer was excluded from the out-of-court settlement proposal.

He sued Steidley in federal court a year ago in a dispute over the truthfulness of his testimony in a rape case.

The motion removing Walton, Guilfoyle, and Jones was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the district attorneys are  barred from bringing an action against the three defendants on the same claim in the future.

The defamation suit seeks more than $500,000 plus legal fees for language in the citizens petition that Steidley, Iski and Lair contend libeled them with accusations of witness tampering, wiretapping, threats, fraud and false reporting of criminal activity.

The petition was dismissed in October by Tulsa District Judge Jefferson Sellers on the ground the sponsors obtained voter signatures on unauthorized forms. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, however, submitted the accusations contained in the petition to the state multicounty grand jury to investigate.

The multicounty grand jury is scheduled to reconvene March 25 but has given no indication when it might deliver its findings in the Rogers County case.

It is also looking into conduct by County Commissioners Mike Helm and Kirt Thacker in the awarding of construction and other contracts.

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