Four officers sentenced in Tulsa police corruption trial
BY OMER GILLHAM & CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
5/18/12 at 8:30 AM
Grand jury investigates police corruption: Read all of the stories, view a timeline and read key documents.
Three decorated Tulsa Police officers and a federal agent are headed to prison for convictions that a U.S. district judge called "a stain that will live for a generation or more on the Tulsa Police Department."
"This is a difficult series of cases for all of the defendants involved and the community, as well," U.S. District Judge Bruce Black said. "But all of you should have known the law better than anyone."
Black is a New Mexico judge who presided over the sentencing of four former officers convicted of civil rights violations, stealing drug money and drug conspiracy.
A corruption probe of the Tulsa Police Department resulted in 11 police officers being accused of criminal behavior. Additionally, 41 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified due to civil rights violations or potential problems with their cases.
On Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Black sentenced four officers to serve time in federal prison, ending the criminal phase of the corruption probe.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Police Chief Chuck Jordan declined comment through spokesmen after the sentences were announced, citing ongoing personnel investigations.
Retired Tulsa Police Cpl. Harold R. Wells, 60, received the longest sentence of any of the defendants: 10 years in prison and five years probation.
Black said Wells' sentence was "the most difficult" for him, because Wells had a long police career, "having served above and beyond the call of duty" to Tulsa.
"But unfortunately, you've also done things that have dishonored the badge and your career," Black told Wells before sentencing him.
Wells was convicted in June on five counts:
Black had previously acquitted Wells on the weapons charge so Wells only faced sentencing on four convictions.
- knowingly carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking crime;
- conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substance (methamphetamine);
- conspiracy to steal U.S. funds;
- stealing U.S. funds;
- and use of a telephone to commit a felony.
During Wells' sentencing, Black also commented on two police officers who stood trial alongside Wells but were acquitted.
Officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham were acquitted of all charges against them in June, including a charge of stealing money during an FBI sting in May 2009. Wells was convicted of stealing money during the sting.
Black said: "If I had overseen a bench case in your matter, I wouldn't have resolved the case against your co-defendants in the same manner."
DeBruin and Bonham are on paid leave pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs investigation into the issues raised by their indictments.
Former officer Jeff Henderson was sentenced to 42 months prison time and three years probation. He was convicted in August on two counts of civil rights violations and six counts of perjury. Because of credit for time served and with good behavior, Henderson is expected to serve about 20 months in federal prison.
Henderson was fired Tuesday by the department after his convictions were confirmed.
"You've had an exemplary career for the most part," Black told Henderson. "Unfortunately, the Constitution does not allow cutting corners. We're required to treat everyone within the confines of the law - even a former police officer."
Shorter sentences were handed to those who cooperated with federal investigators. The officers testified about stolen drugs and money, falsified search warrants, and perjury by Tulsa police officers.
Former Tulsa Police Officer John K. "J.J." Gray was sentenced to four months in prison plus four years probation. He pleaded guilty to stealing government funds and testified against other officers as part of a plea deal negotiated with federal prosecutors.
"I'd like to apologize to TPD for the shame, embarrassment and disgrace I brought upon them," Gray said.
Gray's attorneys had requested only probation, but Black handed Gray prison time, telling him, "I cannot ignore the fact that you were directly involved in these crimes."
Former U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Brandon McFadden was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role in the police corruption case. He pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy in May 2010 in federal court and cooperated with special prosecutors, testifying against other officers in the case.
McFadden said he hoped his testimony "shed light" on corruption within the Tulsa Police Department, and encouraged others to come forward if they know of wrongdoing. Part of his sentence includes a mandatory substance abuse treatment program.
Stephen Jones, an attorney for Henderson, said McFadden's lighter sentence was evidence of a flawed legal system.
"A system for sentencing guidelines for federal offenders which directs someone like Brandon McFadden to receive self-surrender, 20 months for dealing 26 kilos of methamphetamine, and to keep his $400,000 house, which was undoubtedly built in part with drug money, demonstrates again the accuracy of the often repeated claim that the law is an ass," he said via email.
Jones was referring to the fact that McFadden has until Jan. 18 to surrender for prison.
All the former officers are now convicted felons, they can no longer possess firearms and must abide by strict terms of supervision during probation, including consenting to searches at any time of their property or vehicles and disclosure of financial statements and assets.
Both Henderson and Wells were brought into the federal courtroom Tuesday in jail-issued orange jumpsuits and shackles. Their families and friends packed the courtroom and tears flowed as their sentences were announced.
Attorneys requested Henderson be allowed to serve his time in a federal prison unit designed to protect former police officers, or barring that, a federal prison camp in Yankton, S.D.
Wells' attorney patted him on the shoulder as his sentence was read, and Wells cried as he faced the court and turned to address his family members, thanking them for their support.
"I'll be out one of these days, for good," he told them.
Wells is 60 years old with two grown children and several grandchildren. He is a borderline diabetic who takes medication for high cholesterol and depression, Black noted. His attorneys didn't request a specific federal prison, just one that could protect a former police officer and address his medical needs.
"You've had a marvelous career and did tremendous things," Black told Wells. "The downside is, you knew better."
World staff writer Jarrel Wade contributed to this story
Original Print Headline: Officers' fate set
Omer Gillham 918-581-8301 Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
U.S. District Judge Bruce Black (left) sentences former Tulsa police Cpl. Harold Wells for his role in the police corruption scandal at the federal courthouse in Tulsa on Tuesday. DRAWING BY EVELYN PETROSKI/Tulsa World