Oklahoma legislator wants key evidence suppressed in bribery case

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An Oklahoma state lawmaker has asked a judge overseeing his bribery proceedings to suppress evidence based on a 1979 Supreme Court decision and a passage from the state’s constitution.

Rep. Randy Terrill is accused of offering a bribe to another lawmaker, former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich. The politicians were charged under a 1974 law that says offering a candidate a job, to induce them to drop out of a race, is bribery.

Prosecutors claim that Terrill and Leftwich worked together to attempt to create an $80,000 position in the medical examiner’s office, specifically intended for Leftwich, providing she agreed to not to run for re-election.  They allege Terrill used “political influence and intimidation” to try to force the appointment.

Terrill is asking Special Judge Stephen Alcorn to have the evidence suppressed before the preliminary hearings.

Terrill’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, wrote in a brief that the case was similar to one in 1979 involving former U. S. Henry Helstoski, a New Jersey Democrat, who was accused of taking $8,000 for introducing legislation helping Chileans immigrate into the U.S.  In that case, the Supreme Court ruled in Helstoski’s favor based on legislative protection in the U.S. Constitution.

Jones also joined a motion filed by Leftwich asking the judge dismiss the case based on an interpretation of the Oklahoma Constitution that says: “Senators and representatives … for any speech or debate in either House shall not be questioned in any other place.”

Prosecutors say the defense position is simplistic, overbroad and inaccurate.

The Oklahoman

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