Judge: Grand Jury Investigation Into Tulsa Sheriff's Office Will Proceed

Tuesday, June 30th 2015, 12:12 pm
By: News On 6

A judge denied the motion to dismiss a petition calling for a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

"To dismiss the petition because the petition was filed, and later the signatures were verified, would be to put form over substance," Judge Rebecca Nightingale ruled Tuesday.

The petition was circulated by "We the People" to call for a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. The group launched a petition drive after the April shooting death of Eric Harris by Reserve Deputy Bob Bates.

The Tulsa County Election Board verified 6,647 signatures on the petition for a grand jury investigation of the sheriff, but Sheriff Stanley Glanz challenged the petition process. 

Glanz and his attorneys argue that the group did not use the actual petition approved by the judge when collecting signatures from registered voters.

Now, the grand jury investigation will proceed.

"The grand jury system is of ancient origin. As important now as it was then to provide people an opportunity to address grievances," Nightingale ruled.

The sheriff's office has said in statements that Glanz is neither afraid nor hesitant to appear before a "properly called and legally empaneled grand jury."

6/29/2015 Related Story: New Complaint Alleges 'Systematic Problems' Against TCSO, Bates, More

We The People, represented by Marq Lewis, countered that citizens have a right to know what is happening at TCSO after the shooting and reserve deputy training controversy.

We the People filed a motion Monday asking the judge to reconsider a protective order for the signature pages. They believe the sheriff's request for the judge to deny the petition for a grand jury investigation is evidence that that the names and addresses of the people who signed the petition should be sealed. That request was denied earlier this month.

Special Coverage: TSCO Reserve Deputy Shooting Controversy

The Tulsa County District Attorney in May asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate TCSO, and an outside agency has been hired by Tulsa County Commissioners to audit TCSO.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has asked the state Attorney General to appoint another prosecutor to coordinate the grand jury investigation saying, "In keeping with my office's duty and responsibility to protect the integrity of the investigative process it is incumbent to avoid the appearance of any conflict."

Kunzweiler said the Tulsa County District Attorney has historically provided legal counsel to the sheriff's office and said because of the previous and on-going duty of representation, it's necessary for the office to recuse from guiding the grand jury.

In a statement, representative of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, Terry Simonson, said:

"Today's decision to deny our request to dismiss the grand jury petition will be reviewed by me and my legal team upon my return to town. At that point, we will discuss what our options are going forward.

I still believe that the process used by the petitioners did not follow what I believe to be a very clear and unambiguous laws governing grand jury proceedings which must be strictly followed.

As I have stated previously, I am neither afraid nor hesitant to have the Petitioners grievances brought before a legally empaneled grand jury or directly to me.

I have never denied the petitioners their access to me to listen to their grievances regarding on how our office can improve its performance. That door has always remained open and still is. It doesn't take a grand jury to open it.

We do know that there is time to consider all of our options as state law prohibits the convening of a grand jury either 30 days before or 10 days after any election for state or county office. As we know, there is an election July 14th to fill the position formerly held by Representative Kevin Mathews.

If a grand jury is ultimately convened, I will fully cooperate with the grand jury, have nothing to hide about the operations of the Sheriffs Office , and will finally be able to tell 15 open minded citizens who have not prejudged me the truth that has yet to be told."