A former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate who is jailed on felony charges related to a shooting and alleged threats against the University of Tulsa pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday, and his attorney released surveillance video of the shooting.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office charged Christopher Jonathan Barnett on July 25 with threatening an act of violence, one day after his arrest for shooting a process server at his south Tulsa residence. Prosecutors on Tuesday charged Barnett, who initially was accused of shooting with intent to kill, with one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
In a court appearance Thursday morning, Special Judge David Guten set Barnett’s preliminary hearing in both cases for Aug. 26.
Brendan McHugh, one of Barnett’s attorneys, notified Guten on Thursday that he filed a motion asking that Barnett be considered immune from prosecution under Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground Law, which both Guten and Assistant District Attorney Mark Collier said would need to be presented before Barnett’s trial judge.
After Special Judge April Seibert reviewed video footage of the shooting and prosecutors asked her to reconsider her decision on Friday to set bail for Barnett at $1 million, she determined Monday that he should be held without the option of posting bond.
McHugh released two videos of the incident to the media after Thursday’s proceedings. Neither video clip has audio, but one video shows the process server speaking at the front door, leaning in at one point possibly to better hear the conversation.
At about 40 seconds into the clip, the process server walks away from the door to the front yard but turns around while he is standing on Barnett’s lawn. While he is speaking from the lawn, a shot is fired at the 51-second mark on the video.
Trey Barnett, Chris Barnett’s husband, testified during Monday’s bond hearing and said he believed the videos Seibert saw had been altered to remove an attempt by the process server to goad Chris Barnett to fight outside their house.
The Tulsa World showed Collier the videos McHugh provided to the media, and Collier said the clips are identical to what Seibert viewed before rendering her bond decision. Collier also said the process server had an audio recording of the encounter that matched what could be seen in the videos.
A probable cause affidavit alleges that Barnett Google-searched “Can you legally shoot a process server?” though Trey Barnett said that search occurred around the time the latter had a separate altercation with a different process server.
Collier on Monday said police had discovered evidence that Chris Barnett at one point had said the only good process server was a dead one.
Guten declined Barnett’s request to reconsider his bond, saying he could not change what Seibert decided unless new information was available. Barnett, in response, said there was new information because prosecutors opted to charge him with assault and battery with a deadly weapon rather than shooting with intent to kill, the complaint on which he initially was jailed.
“The facts are the same,” Guten told Barnett. “It’s just a different charge.”
In the threats case, McHugh argued that the content of his client’s website, Transparency for Oklahomans, is legally protected speech under the First Amendment. He filed motions saying judges in other courts have reviewed Barnett’s writings and determined they were not illegal.
An affidavit in that case details statements on a page titled “How would Chris Barnett take down TU?” which includes what Barnett said were “hypothetical” comments about shooting people as they left TU football games at halftime. The page identifies a TU professor and administrator who are also named in litigation the Barnetts filed against TU following Trey Barnett’s suspension from the school.
Tulsa Police Detective Max Ryden said during Monday’s hearing that the statements on the website were concerning, and he told Seibert the witnesses he’s spoken to have expressed fear of Chris Barnett.