Convicted ex-officer to get city's legal help in one lawsuit; denied in another
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 5:32 AM
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Read continuing coverage of Tulsa’s City Council.Original Print Headline: Convicted ex-officer to get city's legal help in lawsuit
City Councilors approved one request on Thursday and rejected another by former Tulsa Police Officer Harold Wells, who asked for legal representation in two federal civil lawsuits.
Wells is serving a 10-year federal prison term in Minnesota after being convicted of five charges that resulted from a police-corruption investigation.
The lawsuits were filed by Hugo Alberto Gutierrez and Thomas Dale Ranes - both of whom allege that Tulsa police violated their civil rights through false arrests and unlawful searches and seizures. Neither case was part of the federal investigation.
Their sentences were overturned in the wake of the 2010 police corruption scandal, and they are suing Wells in his capacity as a police officer for damages.
After meeting in executive session, councilors voted 7-0 to deny Wells' request for representation in the Gutierrez case and voted 4-3 to approve his request in the Ranes case.
Councilors Karen Gilbert, Skip Steele, Arianna Moore, Phil Lakin, Jack Henderson, Jeannie Cue and council Chairman David Patrick voted to deny Wells representation in the Gutierrez case. Councilors G.T. Bynum and Blake Ewing were not present for the vote.
Gilbert, Steele, Moore and Lakin voted to provide representation for Wells in the Ranes case. Henderson, Cue and Patrick voted against providing representation.
"The city attorney brings in information for us to consider, and then the city attorney makes a recommendation," Lakin said. "Based upon that information that he brought us, I make my decision."
Gerald Bender, Litigation Division manager for the city of Tulsa, said that when considering a request for legal representation by a police officer, councilors must determine whether "the action was lawful and within the course and scope of their duties."
Bender said this was Wells' first request to the city for legal representation.
The council has denied requests for representation in the Gutierrez case from two other former police officers linked to the corruption investigation - John K. "J.J." Gray and Callison Kaiser.
The council has approved representation for former Police Chief Ron Palmer and former Officer Bruce Bonham in the Ranes lawsuit.
Gutierrez was sentenced in July 2008 to seven years and three months in prison after pleading guilty in April 2008 to possessing methamphetamine while intending to distribute it.
His conviction was vacated July 30, 2010, because prosecutors conceded that evidence in the criminal case was acquired in violation of Gutierrez's constitutional rights.
Ranes pleaded no contest in 2009 to one count of unlawful possession of a controlled drug. A Tulsa County district judge vacated his conviction on Oct. 18, 2011.
The corruption 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.
Two Tulsa police officers - Bonham and Nick DeBruin - were acquitted of all charges and were fired last year. A third Tulsa police officer, Bill Yelton, was acquitted and retired in May.
Palmer was not accused of any wrongdoing in the federal police corruption case.
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.