Grand Jury Clears Green Country DA, Staff Of Criminal Charges

Wednesday, May 21st 2014, 11:48 pm
By: Tess Maune

A grand jury has spoken, clearing a Green Country district attorney and her staff of all criminal charges. Janice Steidley and her office were accused of more than 20 crimes, including witness tampering and corruption.

Law enforcement from Rogers, Mayes and Craig Counties complained about drops in charges and convictions since Steidley took office four years ago.

10/18/2013 Related Story: State's Multi-county Grand Jury Will Investigate Rogers County Officials

"Anyone can make an allegation against anybody; we deal with that every day. That was a smear campaign," Steidley said.

She started out a news conference Wednesday by telling reporters that someone used a bomb to blow her home mailbox Tuesday. A threat she said she's taking seriously, though she said it's not the first time she and her family have felt attacked.

"My son was confronted at school, and told that his mother was a liar and a fraud, and that I was going to jail," Steidley said as tears filled her eyes. "Yeah, you're right, have I gotten upset, yeah, you're right."

She's not upset, however, that nearly two dozen claims against her and her staff have been dropped. Though, the 74 page report does seem to take a jab at the DA's character.

"Is there always room for improvement, absolutely. Am I open to any kind of constructive criticism, absolutely, and whatever we can do to make the system better, we are going to do that," she said.

A petition, signed by close to 7,000 Rogers County voters, put the investigation in motion. It took a grand jury more than a year to determine there wasn't enough evidence to indict the DA.

The report points out that there is sufficient evidence that Steidley needs to improve how her office handles victims, especially children.

"I told her, point blank, I will not turn loose of this. I will not watch another family have to go through what my family's had to go through and what it's done to my daughters'," said Bill Jones, whose daughters' case was part of the investigation.

Jones said Steidley refused to press charges against two teenaged boys arrested for sexually abusing his eight and nine year olds. He said her office declared it consensual, but said the DA never had any real communication with his family.

Jones spent more than a year fighting for justice for his girls.

"It took a lot of toll watching their father fight something that they felt was their fault, which it wasn't," Jones said. "I finally had set them down and tell them, ‘I'm doing this because I'm your father, it's my job,' and nobody should have to go through that, nobody."

Jones said Steidley recused herself after he filed a complaint. He said the boys were eventually convicted of the sexual abuse in a Wagoner County courtroom.

Steidley didn't comment on any specific case, but said her office has strict policies when it comes to taking care of victims.

She said her office establishes ‘case responsibility' by making sure prosecutors handle cases from beginning to end and assigns a legal assistant to every prosecutor to help with getting to know victims.

A victim-witness coordinator is involved with all cases, she added.

"I have done my job, I have stood up to it all and I have not bowed to popularity," Steidley said. "There are decisions that a District Attorney has to make that is unpopular, and I did that and that was unfortunate. It's not something I wanted to do but I had to do it."

Eleven law enforcement agencies claimed Steidley created an adversarial relationship, making it tough to do their job of getting criminals prosecuted.

The report recognized the issue saying, "the investigation revealed an alarming lack of respect, civility and overall professionalism in the relationship between Steidley and Rogers County law enforcement."

"I definitely think there's a cell-group of law enforcement and I don't know if some of it has to do with me being a woman, because I can certainly tell you of heated conversations they've had with males in our office, and I didn't see that on the front page," said Steidley.

Rogers County Sheriff, Scott Walton said society should be past focusing on the male-female role and said gender or race do not factor in one's ability to perform.

"The fact that Ms. Steidley is a female has nothing to do our poor relationship," said Walton.

The report blames the county's ‘dysfunctional relationship' on both the DA and law enforcement, but said Steidley elevated tensions by aggressively confronting officers and deputies.

Since the report was released, Steidley said she's called a number of law enforcement officials to say she's ready to rebuild those relationships.

Walton said he's skeptical.

"I don't think this relationship is anywhere close to repairable and I certainly believe it can only be fixed at the polls June 24th," Walton said.

The grand jury said it hopes the report will help county leaders restore some sense of professionalism and credibility to the criminal justice system in Rogers County saying, "The citizens of Rogers County deserve better from their public and elected officials."

Both Steidley and Walton said their offices have continued to work together during the course of the investigation, despite their differences.

"The perception is not the reality, and we have been working with law enforcement, there's no way that we can't," Steidley said.

As for Steidley's mailbox, she said the U.S. Postal Service and her team of investigators are looking into the crime. She said she did not call the Rogers County Sheriff's Office or police for help.