The Oklahoma State Attorney General announced Friday the state's multicounty grand jury will launch its own investigation in the ongoing fight between local law enforcement and the Rogers County District Attorney's Office.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton and five other Rogers County residents filed a petition asking for a grand jury to investigate the district attorney, two commissioners and other county officials. A Tulsa County judge threw out that petition Tuesday.
In return, District Attorney Janice Steidley filed a lawsuit against the people who initiated the petition, claiming libel and defamation.
On Friday, State Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he plans to bring the case before the state multicounty grand jury. But the investigation will not only focus on the complaints listed in the petition that was signed by nearly 8,000 Rogers County residents. It will also look into issues raised by Steidley.
"As the chief legal officer of Oklahoma, one of my top priorities is to protect the integrity of our legal system," Pruitt said. "For our system of justice to work properly, people must have confidence in the process. The multicounty grand jury is an investigative tool, which will allow Oklahomans to bring forward any concerns they may have. In this instance, the multicounty grand jury will bring together a panel of citizens from across the state to thoroughly and objectively review the issues raised in Rogers County. I'm confident the multicounty grand jury investigation will uncover the facts, help resolve the issues in Rogers County, and restore Oklahomans' confidence in the legal system."
The initial grand jury petition accused Steidley of a number of crimes, including witness tampering, illegal wiretapping, criminal threats and destruction of government records.
A judge dismissed the petition due to a problem with how the signatures were gathered.
Steidley also issued a press release Friday, saying she had, the day before, requested a grand jury investigation into Rogers County public officers and county departments, including her own office.
"There are a myriad of issues that should be looked into by a grand jury that were not listed on the earlier grand jury petition that was dismissed," Steidley said in the release. "We decided to request this grand jury to shine light on all the parties involved and let the truth come out. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We want a grand jury investigation that is lawful and looking into real issues, not one that is supported by baseless accusations and slander in an attempt to forward political motivations and agendas."
Steidley has not said publicly exactly what issues she wants investigated.
Sheriff Walton said he fears the bad blood between Steidley's office and law enforcement agencies in the counties she represents is going to keep criminals from being prosecuted.
The state's 12-member multicounty grand jury is an investigative body with authority to look into allegations of criminal activity or misconduct by public officials. It has jurisdiction in all 77 counties.