VanMeter, Smart could get out of prison before terms are complete

Thursday, October 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A former deputy commissioner and a Wewoka nursing home operator may be getting out of prison before their 3-year prison terms are up, a published report says.

A federal judge sentenced Brent VanMeter and James Robert Smart for their roles in a bribery scandal that shook the Oklahoma Department of Health.

``Good time'' credit and completion of substance-abuse programs could cut their sentences to 20 months behind bars, the Tulsa World reported from its capitol bureau.

A jury convicted VanMeter, the former deputy commissioner at the Health Department, and Smart, a nursing home operator, of bribery a year ago. U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson sentenced each on Dec. 18 to three years in prison, $50,000 in fines and post-release supervision.

VanMeter could be released from a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, on Aug. 27, said Sven Jones, a public affairs officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Were he to serve the full term, VanMeter's release date would be Jan. 15, 2004, Jones said.

Smart, who is serving time at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is projected to be released Aug. 28, Jones said. If he served the three years, he would be released Jan. 16, 2004.

Both men are attending substance-abuse treatment programs, the completion of which also would move up the release date, Jones said.

VanMeter still faces legal action in Oklahoma. A multicounty grand jury indicted him on two counts of conspiracy against the state, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Goodspeed said.

The charges stem from employees who were on the Health Department payroll but allegedly did little or no work. If convicted, VanMeter could serve 10 years in prison on each count.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is empaneling another multicounty grand jury to look at issues not reviewed by the jurors who indicted VanMeter and others. Jury selection is set for Nov. 13, a spokesman for Edmondson said.

An Oklahoma City businessman also has filed a civil lawsuit against VanMeter, and two financial institutions are suing as well.