UPDATE: Police officials want state investigation of DA Steidley
Salesha Wilken Staff Reporter
Officers from nine law enforcement agencies are asking the State Bureau of Investigation to launch a criminal probe of District Attorney Janice Steidley and members of her staff — a move Steidley’s attorney calls a “mutiny.”
Claremore Police Chief Stan Brown said the group wants the OSBI to investigate complaints involving the DA’s office, though he did not publicly detail those claims. He said the agency would provide any findings to a grand jury for review.
“We see this as the only way,” Brown said during a news conference Wednesday in Claremore.
Participating in the announcement were members of the sheriff’s departments in Rogers and Craig counties, as well as police departments in Catoosa, Inola, Talala, Oologah and Pryor, and the Cherokee Nation Marshal’s Service. They were joined by Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas and representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Their request comes as a group of Rogers County citizens — led by Sheriff Scott Walton — gather signatures on a petition calling for a grand jury investigation of Steidley, three assistants and two county commissioners. That petition, certified by a judge last week, raises an array of allegations, including that the DA’s office mishandled cases involving juvenile victims of sex crimes.
The citizens’ petition is separate from the request for an investigation of the district attorney by the OSBI.
Several officials present at the news conference hesitated when asked to comment about Steidley, but nodded in agreement as Brown described concerns about the DA’s office.
“In order for the system to be fixed, there has to be truth,” he said. “We see this as the only way through this broken system. Law enforcement is here to serve the citizens and to help bring justice to crime victims. The goal is for the truth to prevail.”
Steidley’s attorney, Clark Brewster, in a separate news conference in Tulsa, called the moves against her a “mutiny,” adding the DA only wants to do her job and law enforcement officials have to get accustomed to being held accountable.
Brewster said one particular victim may be upset by the decision not to pursue police charges, but the district attorney must consider the evidence and credibility of the case. She has reasons why a case would be declined, he said.
“It is better to protect the rights and sanctity of the system than it is to please one person, who may have some reason to prosecute,” said Brewster.
Also Wednesday, Brown announced that Assistant Attorney General Tom Bates and District 2 District Attorney Dennis Smith have cleared Claremore Detective John Singer of “Giglio” claims made by Steidley in January. Steidley’s attorney questioned the validity of that announcement.
The term “Giglio” refers to a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring prosecutors to disclose information that could help defendants refute the credibility of witnesses.
Such disclosures often involve police misconduct and can scar an officer’s reputation.
In Singer’s case, Steidley claimed the detective made false statements in a rape case. That accusation is among the issues raised by the citizens’ petition for a grand jury investigation.
It is also central to a federal lawsuit Singer has filed against the district attorney. Singer’s attorney, Chad Neuens, said the detective intends to use the attorney general’s finding “to further prove the DA used this discredited material to attack Detective Singer.”
Brown reported the attorney general will not pursue perjury charges against Singer, nor will any district attorney.
He said the announcement clears the detective of a “horrific allegation” and “speaks to a pattern of poor judgment by DA Steidley.”
In response to Brown’s report that the attorney general has cleared Singer of perjury charges, Brewster, the DA’s attorney, said: “I don’t think that is true.”
But, he added, “We are not at liberty to talk about the report of what the AG said.”
Steidley maintained at the Tulsa news conference she has a responsibility to inform defense attorneys of any possible issues with government witnesses.
“I have a higher duty as a prosecutor to make sure a defendant’s constitutional rights are fulfilled,” she said. “If not, we are jeopardizing our cases and we are putting our bar license on the line. And I take that job very seriously.”
“We are going to continue to do our job,” she added. “Just as we hold any witness accountable for their actions, we are going to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.”
Brewster stressed that Steidley prosecutes cases based on honesty and transparency.
“The folks of Rogers County and her district should be very proud of this woman,” he said.