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Prosecutors ask for delay in preliminary hearing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Federal prosecutors want a delay in Wednesday's scheduled preliminary hearing for a former state Health Department official who was arrested in a state and federal investigation of nursing home regulations.

Former state Deputy Commissioner Brent Van Meter was taken into custody Wednesday for allegedly accepting a $1,000 bribe to help qualify a nursing home operator for federal funds. Van Meter was in charge of the agency in the medical absence of Dr. J.R. Nida.

Jerry Regier, the acting director of the state Health Department, fired VanMeter Thursday after the charge was made public.

U.S. Attorney Dan Webber asked U.S. Magistrate Valerie Couch to postpone the hearing until May 23 to give prosecutors time to present evidence in the case to a federal grand jury.

The panel is scheduled to meet May 16.

If the grand jury indicts Van Meter, there would be no need for a preliminary hearing. A grand jury indictment and preliminary hearing serve the same purpose: to determine if there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the person charged committed the crime.

Prosecutors said Van Meter's attorney, Mack Martin, has no objection to postponing the preliminary hearing.
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