PRYOR, OK —
In a press release dated Friday, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced that he has directed the state’s multicounty grand jury to launch an investigation into multiple allegations of wrongdoing by public officials and others in Rogers County.
“As the chief legal officer of Oklahoma, one of my top priorities is to protect the integrity of our legal system,” Pruitt said in the release. “In this instance, the multicounty grand jury will bring together a panel of citizens from across the state to thoroughly and objectively review the issues raised in Rogers County.”
On Thursday, District Attorney Janice Steidley’s office delivered a written request to District Judge Terry McBride “to impanel a grand jury to investigate Rogers County public offices and county departments, including her office.”
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton also contacted the district judges making the same request.
Earlier this week, a Tulsa County judge dismissed a petition calling for a grand jury investigation of Steidley’s office as well as two Rogers County commissioners on a technicality.
The motion to dismiss, filed by Steidley’s attorney Joel Wohlgemuth, claimed the more than 8,000 signatures were not gathered legally.
According to reports, Wohlgemuth said the petition summary at the top of each signature page was not approved by a judge and was misleading because all of the specific allegations were not detailed.
The petition originated from several law enforcement agencies and citizens who accused Steidley’s office of various wrongdoings including witness tampering, wiretapping, false reporting of criminal activity and fraud.
Soon after, Steidley’s office filed a lawsuit charging the petitioners with libel.
According to the Claremore Progress, the suit alleges that the petitioners “created, drafted, circulated, or otherwise republished the defamatory publications concerning plaintiffs.”
The suit also claims that the “defendants knew that the allegations concerning Plaintiffs contained in the Grand Jury Petition were false and highly misleading, and published such statements with malice and with an ulterior and illicit purpose.”
Steidley is already involved in a suit against the Claremore Progress for defamation regarding several stories published earlier in the year.
In Friday’s press release, Pruitt informed the judges that he planned to bring the case before the state multicounty grand jury.
According to the release, the investigation will include topics in the grand jury petition as well as issues raised by Steidley.
“I’m confident the multicounty grand jury investigation will uncover the facts, help resolve the issues in Rogers County, and restore Oklahomans’ confidence in the legal system,” Pruitt said in the press release.
District 12 Judges Terry McBride, Dynda Post and Dwayne Steidley also released a statement.
“The District Judges of the 12th Judicial District of Oklahoma which includes Rogers, Mayes and Craig Counties have been advised by the Oklahoma Attorney General that the issues raised concerning county government and law enforcement are going to be presented to the Oklahoma’s Multicounty Grand Jury. We believe it to be appropriate action by the Attorney General. Therefore a Rogers County Grand Jury would be a duplication of proceedings and is not necessary at this time,” the statement read. “We have explored the options available and believe that a grand jury is the best hope of resolving the issues and establishing some normalcy to the operation of County Government and the criminal justice system in Rogers County.”
Any action recommended by the grand jury, including prosecution, would take place in Rogers County, according to the press release.