WAGONER — Former Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert's jury trial on a multicounty grand jury's accusation to remove him from office likely won't take place until at least January, officials said Monday.
Meanwhile, a new defense motion in the case alleges part of the accusation should be tossed out of court because it is based on an undercover deputy's misrepresentation to multiple state agencies of Colbert's behavior while on duty.
Colbert was set to appear in court Monday before Pittsburg County District Judge James Bland to determine whether he would be ready for an October trial on the accusation, which stemmed from a grand jury investigation. In March, the investigation found, among other things, that Colbert willfully neglected to perform his official duties.
Colbert's legal counsel previously told the court there was a possible scheduling conflict that could impact civil court trial proceedings. On Monday, one of his attorneys told the Tulsa World she's optimistic that part of the accusation - and at least a portion of his associated criminal case - will be dismissed.
The grand jury investigation led to the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office filing three felony charges against Colbert and former Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Gragg, but one charge was dismissed during an August preliminary hearing.
Both are accused of releasing two people who were under arrest in exchange for them turning over $10,000 the sheriff's office seized during a December 2014 traffic stop.
Attorney General's Office spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said Monday that Gragg will next appear in court Sept. 26. Gragg is expected to plead to an amended charge of willfully neglecting to perform his duty, which is a misdemeanor, and testify against Colbert if his case goes before a jury.
Attorney Michon Hastings Hughes, who represents Colbert, said there will be a Nov. 22 hearing before Okmulgee County District Judge Ken Adair regarding a motion to quash a previous judge's Aug. 5 order that Colbert be bound over for trial.
Minutes from Colbert's Wednesday court appearance indicate the criminal case could be heard on the Okmulgee County jury trial sounding docket Feb. 22, with trial proceedings beginning March 20.
"If the motion to quash is ruled in our favor, then the whole case goes away for the civil (action) too," Hughes said. "If they don't establish probable cause in the criminal case, they're not going to meet the burden of preponderance of evidence in the removal ... The facts as the state's presented them don't present any crime at all."
Hughes said she hopes Bland at least grants a hearing on her client's motion for partial summary judgment on count three of the accusation for removal, which is based on how he reportedly failed to properly handle money set aside for undercover operations.
A new court date on the civil case has not yet been set, and Ferguson said the state has 15 days from Sept. 5 - the date the motion was filed - to file a response to it.