Former Tulsa police officer's testimony focus of perjury case
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11/27/12 at 7:14 AM
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A federal judge told former Tulsa Police Officer Jeff Henderson on Monday that he was emphatic, bold and strong when he gave what is alleged to be perjurious testimony in court in June.
"He (the attorney) gave you a chance to equivocate, and you didn't," U.S. District Judge James Payne said. "You were that strong. You could have said, 'I think.' "
"I believed it to be 100 percent true," Henderson said. "I was sincere about my answer because I believed it to be true at the time."
The perjury allegations arose after Henderson, who had already been convicted in a police corruption case, testified this summer about the name of a previously unidentified informant he said he had used in the drug investigation that led to a prison sentence for Tony Becknell Jr.
Evidence later showed that the person Henderson identified as the informant could not have been a part of the investigation because he was in the Tulsa Jail during the time period in which Henderson claimed he met with the man. Becknell was later released from prison, and his sentence was vacated.
Payne questioned Henderson on the stand Monday before instructing the prosecution and defense in the perjury case to write closing briefs. He then put the court in recess until next month.
The judge and attorneys for both sides agreed that the issue is not whether Henderson was right or wrong but whether his inaccurate testimony was intentional.
Henderson has since recanted the accuracy of his testimony, saying in court Monday that it was an honest mistake related to a similar search warrant involving the same suspects a year earlier.
Records showing similarities in the search warrants and circumstances were reviewed in court Monday.
"I had them intertwined together," Henderson said. "There were a lot of similarities."
Henderson was convicted last year in the police corruption case on six counts of perjury and two counts of civil rights violations. He is serving a 42-month sentence and is assigned to a federal prison in South Dakota, but he has been in solitary confinement in the Tulsa Jail since this summer due to his role in the Becknell case.
Payne ordered Henderson sent back to South Dakota on Monday to continue his sentence, which Henderson said he anticipates will end in April.
Jane Duke, an assistant U.S. attorney from Arkansas who led the corruption probe, took over the prosecution of Henderson in the new perjury case.
Prosecutors told the judge on Monday that they are pursuing the case as a misdemeanor, making six months the maximum additional penalty available for Henderson.
Duke said filing the case as a misdemeanor allowed the government to avoid having to spend additional resources on a jury trial.
In his testimony June 29 in Becknell's petition for release, Henderson identified an informant he said he used to obtain the search warrant that led to Becknell's arrest in March 2005.
Henderson testified that he never documented the informant but added that "I'm just letting you know it's a fact," according to the June 29 testimony.
"I used him on more than six" investigations, Henderson said. "He was a reliable confidential informant."
The man Henderson said was his informant appeared in court after the perjury allegations were made and testified that he had never been an informant.
Much of Monday's hearing was focused on the defense argument that the man had lied and actually was an informant - just not on the Becknell case.
An undercover Tulsa police officer, whose identity is being omitted to protect the officer, testified Monday that he had dealt with the man as a confidential informant and understood him to be an informant for Henderson, also.
The World is also omitting the name of the alleged informant to protect his identity.
In a sealed court filing in response to his new allegations of perjury, Henderson called his testimony an "innocent mistake" and a result of miscommunication, according to a prosecution filing.
Henderson's corruption case arose from a federal investigation of Tulsa police officers and a federal agent. The case resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers and a federal agent, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five officers who never faced charges.
Former Tulsa Police Officer Harold Wells was also convicted in the case and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Two Tulsa police officers - Bruce Bonham and Nick DeBruin - were acquitted of all charges and were fired earlier this year. A third Tulsa police officer, Bill Yelton, was acquitted and retired in May.
Additionally, at least 46 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified as a result of the police corruption investigation, and at least 15 lawsuits have been filed against the city and individual police officers.
The Tulsa Police Department has revised a number of policies, including those involving documentation of informants, as a result of the corruption scandal.
Original Print Headline: Ex-officer's testimony focus of perjury case
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Jeff Henderson: Already serving time for his role in a police corruption case, the ex-officer is now being tried for perjury.