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Ex-Commissioner's Attorneys Say Prosecution Politically Motivated

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A former Rogers County commissioner convicted of corruption-related charges was a victim of a ``politically motivated'' prosecution that was tied to the controversial firings of several federal prosecutors, his attorneys argue.

Lawyers for Randy Baldridge asked U.S. District Judge Terence Kern to levy a prison term below the federal sentencing guidelines and allow their client to remain free while his conviction is on appeal at a Denver appeals court.

Baldridge was charged with obtaining money by fraud, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy for allegedly filing false claims to the county for personal gain between July 2004 and March 2006. The county lost more than $13,000 in the scheme, according to the indictments, with Baldridge receiving about $5,000 and others receiving about $8,000.

A federal jury convicted Baldridge, 38, of Taiwah, in February on charges of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

Baldridge's indictment ``was a disproportionate federal response to what many consider to be poor judgment or at worst the penny ante deals that permeate government in Oklahoma,'' attorney Gloyd L. McCoy said in two motions filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

McCoy also cited stories in the Oologah Lake Leader newspaper in stating that Baldridge's indictment was related to the January 2006 firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

McCoy said U.S. Attorney David E. O'Meilia was on the list of targeted prosecutors, but his name ``vanished'' from the list after the Baldridge indictment.

O'Meilia recused himself from the case before it went to the grand jury, said first assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Woodward, who added it was his decision to seek the indictment. Woodward said his office is preparing to file a document showing O'Meilia's recusal was brought about by Baldridge's ``own machinations and misconduct.''

A loss of $13,190 through Rogers County fraudulent purchase orders ``does not reach the level of high political scandal,'' McCoy said in seeking a minimum sentence. The loss was ``only slightly more'' than the $10,000 threshold for an increased prison sentence and ``trivial'' compared to other cases.

The probation officer originally recommended that he receive a sentence between 15 and 21 months, but that was later amended to between 51 and 63 months.

Related Stories:

1/29/2007 Former Rogers County Commissioner's Trial Underway

11/21/2006 Recount Denied In Rogers County Commission Race

6/5/2007 Former County Commissioner Scheduled To Be Sentenced
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