Former Tulsa officer convicted in corruption probe testifies about confidential informant
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2012
6/30/12 at 7:34 AM
Grand jury investigates police corruption: Read all of the stories, view a timeline and read key documents.
A former Tulsa police officer who is serving time for federal civil-rights violations and perjury testified Friday in a federal hearing, telling the court the name of the confidential informant he says he used in a drug case when he was a police officer, despite having no other record of the informant.
The former officer, Jeff Henderson, was brought this month from a federal prison in South Dakota to testify in the hearing of Tony M. Becknell, who was convicted in a 2005 case on two counts of drug possession with an intent to distribute.
Becknell's defense is trying to add his case to the list of at least 44 other criminal cases that have been modified or thrown out as a result of a police corruption probe. The hearing was granted to allow him to present his case for modifying his conviction.
The corruption investigation began as early as 2008 and resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers and one federal agent, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five officers who were never charged.
In Becknell's defense, attorney Paul DeMuro has focused his case on the search warrant affidavit Henderson swore to before Becknell's arrest in 2005, including whether Henderson followed police procedures and whether an informant existed at all.
After Henderson initially invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, the government consented to giving him immunity for his testimony, allowing him to talk without penalty about the 2005 case and the informant he said was used.
"I used him on more than six" investigations, Henderson said. "He was a reliable confidential informant."
The World is withholding the name of the confidential informant out of concern for his safety.
Henderson described the informant in detail, which eventually led U.S. District Judge James Payne to call a recess as defense and prosecution attorneys gather additional information on how to proceed, given the informant's name.
Under further questioning, Henderson said there was no documentation of the informant whatsoever.
He said he hadn't documented the person because police policy for the division he was in at the time didn't require it.
DeMuro referenced apparently contradictory testimony given earlier from Tulsa Police Sgt. Gary Meek, who said confidential informant procedures requiring documentation of informants would have applied to Henderson at the time, according to court transcripts.
In dispute is whether the Tulsa Police Department Special Investigations Division's policy - as opposed to general departmental policy - would have applied, since the Special Investigations Division served the search warrant Henderson wrote.
Meek, who now works in Internal Affairs, was the administrative sergeant over the Special Investigations Division at the time of Becknell's investigation, he said.
Meek said he expected Henderson to have documented his use of the informant before using the informant for a search warrant executed by his division, according to court transcripts.
According to Henderson's testimony Friday, departmental policy, which didn't require all confidential informants to be documented, would have applied because he wasn't working in the Special Investigations Division.
"I went by policy at the time, and that's all I can say," he said.
Asked why he didn't keep any documentation of the confidential informant, even to protect himself, Henderson said documentation proves nothing.
He referenced his trial last year, saying he documented a confidential informant and key prosecution witness, Rochelle Martin, who denied during her testimony having given Henderson some of the information his search warrants reflected.
The federal investigation of Tulsa police officers and a federal agent began as early as 2008 and resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers and the federal agent, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five unindicted officers.
At least 44 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified because of civil rights violations or potential problems with their cases.
Additionally, at least 11 lawsuits have been filed against the city and individual police officers as a result of the police corruption investigation.
Bonham was charged with five counts and DeBruin was charged with six counts related to theft of U.S. funds, civil rights violations, drug possession and possession of firearms. The Tulsa Police Department fired DeBruin and Bonham on Jan. 20 for "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "duty to be truthful and obedient."
- Jeff Henderson, who was hired by the Tulsa Police Department in 1995, was convicted on two counts of civil rights violations and six counts of perjury. He was acquitted on 45 counts of perjury, civil rights violations, drug conspiracy and witness tampering. Henderson was sentenced to 42 months in prison, which he is serving in South Dakota.
- Brandon McFadden, hired as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2002, was sentenced to 21 months in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy. McFadden cooperated with prosecutors.
- John K. "J.J." Gray, hired by the Tulsa Police Department in 1990, pleaded guilty to stealing money and was sentenced to four months in a Louisiana prison. He was released May 1. Gray cooperated with prosecutors.
- Harold R. Wells, hired as a Tulsa police officer in 1975, was convicted on five counts, but a federal judge later dismissed one count. Wells was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, which he is serving in Minnesota.
- Three police officers - Nick DeBruin, Bruce Bonham and Bill Yelton - were acquitted on civil rights violations in two separate cases.
Yelton retired in May, about nine months after police announced that an internal investigation was under way following his acquittal.
Original Print Headline: Ex-officer testifies about his informant
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Jeff Henderson: He was given immunity for his testimony, allowing the former Tulsa officer to talk without penalty about a 2005 case and the informant he said was used
Tony M. Becknell: He was convicted in a 2005 case on two counts of drug possession with an intent to distribute. He is seeking to have his conviction modified