The state’s multicounty grand jury returned a 10-count indictment against a high-profile Grove defense attorney on accusations that include racketeering, pandering and solicitation to commit murder.
Winston Connor II, 54, is in a North Carolina jail after being arrested Saturday evening on a 10-count arrest warrant in connection with his alleged contact with a convicted murderer who admitted operating a methamphetamine trafficking ring from prison.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, which supervises the grand jury, filed the indictment under seal on Nov. 16 after grand jurors heard three days of closed-door testimony in Oklahoma City. Authorities unsealed it Monday morning in Tulsa County District Court ahead of an expected hearing in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
Paul DeMuro, one of two attorneys representing Connor, said in an interview Monday evening that a North Carolina judge reduced Connor’s bail from $500,000 to $10,000. Connor has since posted bond and was either in the process of being released or had been released as of 5 p.m. Monday, DeMuro said.
“This case stinks to high heaven,” the attorney said. “It’s the by-product of a vindictive DA in Ottawa County who for a long time has been adversaries in the courtroom with Winston. That’s what the genesis of this case is, and the circumstances of his arrest prove the vindictiveness of his prosecution.
“This man was treated like he was a fugitive from justice, because that’s what the state of Oklahoma told the state of North Carolina, when in fact he was coming home from a vacation with his family,” DeMuro continued.
In a statement on Sunday, DeMuro called the arrest “one of the most outrageous abuses of power” he’s seen in his legal career. He questioned why police waited to arrest Connor as he returned from vacation when the indictment was filed two months previously.
“This was done for press impact and humiliation. Why not just call me and Winston comes in voluntarily?” DeMuro asked. “Because the state wants to hurt and humiliate Winston as much as possible.
“This is a blatant abuse of power. Winston is innocent, and we will fight this tooth and nail.”
Connor is accused of conducting “a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection of unlawful debt” in Tulsa and Pittsburg counties while employed by his law firm, Stockwell & Connor PLLC.
The case is filed in Tulsa County, even though some of the offenses are alleged to have occurred in Pittsburg and Ottawa counties, because prosecutors believe he committed two or more crimes in the Tulsa area that all “stem from the same scheme or plan.”
He is also charged with committing felony assault and battery, with conspiracy to commit the same crime as an alternative, based on reports that another man was beaten with a belt and suffered a broken arm in May 2016.
The Tulsa World previously published an investigation into Connor’s relationship with Slint Tate, a Grove man serving life without parole for committing first-degree murder in Rogers County.
Delaware and Ottawa counties District Attorney Kenny Wright in 2017 provided the World with recordings of a series of phone calls between Tate and a man alleged to be Connor, during which the man thought to be Connor can be heard discussing disposing of a cellphone Wright alleges was involved in the methamphetamine ring.
Connor has a libel lawsuit pending against Wright related to comments the district attorney made regarding the phone calls.
In the calls, the man can also be heard talking with Tate about another man, identified in the indictment as Sterling Williams. The man alleged to be Connor claims in the recording that Williams assaulted someone he was dating. He is accused of soliciting Tate to have Williams, who is imprisoned without parole on a separate murder conviction, killed over the matter.
A vehicle belonging to Connor’s secretary’s family had been stolen, and according to Wright, the person believed to be responsible was “severely beaten” after the man alleged to be Connor discussed that situation with Tate.
Authorities began wiretapping contraband phones Tate had smuggled into prison in May 2016 while investigating the drug ring, and they decided to launch an inquiry into Connor based on the comments attributed to him on the recordings.
The use of a contraband cellphone to communicate with Tate, who isn’t legally allowed to have a cellphone in custody, formed the basis of a charge of “unlawful communication with a convict” against Connor.
In other counts stemming from a separate investigation, Connor is charged with pandering for prostitution and soliciting prostitution in Tulsa County, receiving proceeds or engaging in transactions “known to be derived from an unlawful activity,” and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
Another charge alleges that he tried to prevent a witness from testifying against one of his clients in a 2017 Ottawa County burglary case. The charge was dismissed in July 2017.