A Tulsa County judge on Monday sentenced a former sheriff’s deputy to eight years in prison after he was convicted last month of groping a woman and exposing himself to her while on duty in September 2014.
Gerald Nuckolls, 27, appeared in District Judge William LaFortune’s courtroom just before noon, handcuffed and in a Tulsa Jail uniform. He and his attorney, Terry Funk, asked LaFortune to sentence him to probation or a short prison term despite a jury’s Oct. 16 recommendation that he receive four years of imprisonment on sexual battery and indecent exposure convictions.
Funk said Nuckolls intends to file an appeal in the case.
Nuckolls maintained throughout his trial that the behavior with the woman was consensual and, while not believing it was a crime, conceded he violated Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office policies and had inappropriate interactions with women “because of his problems with sexual issues.” He resigned his position soon after his arrest last year.
“I destroyed a relationship (with my ex-fiancee),” Nuckolls told the court before his sentencing. “I embarrassed myself, my family, my friends. … I embarrassed (the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office).”
Nuckolls showed little emotion throughout Monday’s testimony, but cried after LaFortune upheld the jury’s recommendation, a contrast to his demeanor during his trial, when he smiled at news cameras and made a profane hand gesture to a Tulsa World photographer.
He was convicted of pinching the 34-year-old woman’s breast, which snapped the elastic top of her dress, at a home in the 5600 block of North Utica Place around 4 a.m. Sept. 16, 2014.
He testified the two simultaneously exposed themselves and that the woman asked him to touch her breast after they discussed tattoos.
The woman said the interaction was unwanted.
Before the sentencing, Funk said Nuckolls has been attending regular therapy sessions and received treatment for major depressive disorder, a product of his time in the military, which included a stint in Afghanistan. He went on to say Nuckolls would continue intensive treatment if he were to receive probation.
As a part of his sentence, Nuckolls will be required to register as a sex offender.
Nuckolls’ mother, Jill, testified on his behalf about how he feels about being unable to see his newborn son. The boy’s mother, who testified during the trial, has an active protective order against Nuckolls that is in effect for five years.
“It’s made him very frustrated, very depressed,” Jill Nuckolls said.
“His entire life he did the right thing.”
In a passionate statement early Monday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore told the court Nuckolls had exhibited “no accountability” or remorse for what he had done to the women.
“It’s been nothing but excuse after excuse after excuse,” he said. “It’s insulting to every man in uniform who does the right thing. The law applies to us all, regardless of your rank or station.”
Elmore, who is also a veteran, said it was “disgraceful” for Nuckolls and his attorney to suggest his military service and history in law enforcement should play a role in the severity of his sentence.
“I objected, and this court rightly sustained, to any additional mention of his combat service because it’s insulting,” Elmore said. “That doesn’t excuse or justify your actions.”
After the sentencing, Funk denied asking that Nuckolls receive special treatment based on his status as a veteran or being in law enforcement.
Funk filed a request for leniency Monday that repeatedly identifies the 34-year-old woman and a 41-year-old woman who testified Nuckolls had her touch his penis during a call at 171st Street and Yale Avenue on the night of March 9, 2014. At trial, Nuckolls consistently denied the older woman’s claims, and he was acquitted of two charges that resulted from her allegations.
The Tulsa World does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Funk, writing of Nuckolls’ interaction with the 34-year-old woman, stated, “His testimony, though damning, was provided to show that the inappropriate behavior was consensual. He honestly believed he had acted stupidly and violated a policy.”
Funk said he was “disappointed” the sentences were consecutive, because the acts he was convicted of “occurred within seconds of each other.” He added that he believes Nuckolls’ history with the sheriff’s office worked against his client.
“That’s very valid by the DA to bring that up, and it’s very valid for the court to consider that,” Funk said. “And I’m sure they did.”