Defense alleges misconduct by federal prosecutors
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Thursday, July 19, 2012
7/19/12 at 9:48 AM
Grand jury investigates police corruption: Read all of the stories, view a timeline and read key documents.
Related Story: Lindell Pointer Sr. files civil rights lawsuit in wake of Tulsa police corruption case
Federal prosecutors are creating an "alternate reality" by encouraging a "disgraced former police officer" to continue to provide false leads and testimony, a defense attorney claims in a motion filed in Tulsa federal court this week.
A judge will hear the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against an assistant U.S. attorney on Thursday, records show.
Defense motions in the case of federal inmate Tony Becknell claim that prosecutors have a conflict of interest. Prosecutors continue to use the statements of an officer regarding informants he said he used in Becknell's case, even though they acknowledge that his testimony appears to be false, defense attorney Paul DeMuro said in a motion filed Monday.
That former Tulsa police officer, Jeff Henderson, is serving prison time for perjury and violating the civil rights of suspects. He was brought back to Tulsa in late June to testify in Becknell's hearing.
Prosecutors argue that they have complied with the judge's orders in Becknell's case and have simply tried to identify the confidential informant Henderson used in the case.
U.S. District Judge James Payne will hear arguments related to the motions Thursday.
Becknell was convicted in 2005 on two counts of drug possession with intent to distribute. He is serving time in a federal prison and is scheduled for release in 2014.
Becknell's defense is trying to have his conviction thrown out by tying the case to police corruption that came to light in a federal investigation of law enforcement officers, including Henderson. The hearing was granted to allow Becknell to present his case.
His conviction was based, in part, on evidence from a search of Becknell's property. Henderson said he used information from a confidential informant to obtain a warrant for that search, but federal prosecutors in Henderson's own case claimed that he routinely made up statements from informants who did not exist and got actual informants to say they had witnessed things they had not.
DeMuro's accusations arose since Henderson's testimony in Becknell's appeal, in which he named a confidential informant he said he used in building the case against Becknell, was shown to be in error.
DeMuro's motion labeled Henderson's testimony "perjurious."
The defense attorney alleges that federal prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Reincke unreasonably pursued discredited leads from Henderson involving two additional confidential informants.
"The AUSA (assistant U.S. attorney) is perpetuating Henderson's perjurious testimony by encouraging Henderson to name additional alleged informants," DeMuro said in the motion.
"The government has crossed over into an altered reality in which it scrambles to chase down unsupported leads of a disgraced former police officer who the government itself recently convicted of perjury in the same type of case," his motion states.
Information about those informants was compared to Henderson's phone records, which "yielded no credible lead as to the identity of the Alleged RCI (reliable confidential informant) used by Henderson," DeMuro's motion states.
The motion further accuses Reincke of continuing the government's "fruitless efforts ... despite Henderson's clear perjury" in an attempt to protect other past cases in which the government used Henderson's testimony.
In response, the government argued that DeMuro has no legal criteria to claim prosecutorial misconduct. Additionally, "the government has simply tried to ascertain the identity of Henderson's" informant, Reincke stated.
According to court documents, prosecutors interviewed Henderson after his testimony June 29.
Henderson told them that he now doesn't remember who the informant was, and he gave them the names of two additional people whom he said the informant might have been, according to the documents.
Prosecutors also interviewed two Tulsa police officers, four agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as former Tulsa Police Officer Bill Yelton - who was indicted in the corruption probe but was found not guilty - to ask whether they knew who Henderson's informant was in the Becknell case, court records show.
"Each of them said they did not," the government stated.
Police corruption investigation
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 12 lawsuits have been filed against the city and individual police officers as a result of the police corruption investigation.
The law enforcement defendants:
Three police officers - Nick DeBruin, Bruce Bonham and Bill Yelton - were acquitted on civil rights violations in two separate cases.
- 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.
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 failing to follow policies regarding "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "duty to be truthful and obedient."
Yelton retired in May, about nine months after police announced that an internal investigation was under way.
Original Print Headline: Defense says prosecution pursued false leads
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Tony Becknell: The federal inmate wants his conviction thrown out, saying it's tied to the Tulsa police corruption scandal.
Jeff Henderson: Despite his convictions for civil rights violations and perjury, his testimony is being used against Tony Becknell.