FLORIDA prosecutors dismiss arrest warrant against Oklahoman

Tuesday, July 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Florida prosecutors have dismissed an arrest warrant for a former Oklahoma City University basketball player who was being sought in connection with a jewelry store robbery.

Chris Durley, 32, had feared for months that if he left Oklahoma, he would be arrested because Florida prosecutors refused until Monday to throw out the warrant.

``I'm excited because, as the Southwest Airlines commercial says, `Now, you're free to move about the country,' 5/8'' Durley said. ``Before, there was a national warrant for me. If I had gone to Gainesville, Texas, and failed to signal when I changed lanes, this would have all started over again.''

Oklahoma County District Judge Virgil Black ordered Durley's immediate release from jail Feb. 23 after hearing testimony from a dozen witnesses who said he was not in Winter Park, Fla., on June 14, 2000. Black denied Durley's extradition.

There was no immediate comment from Florida prosecutors.

He finished law school while fighting the legal system for his freedom. Durley could take the bar examination in February, but said he isn't sure he wants to become a licensed attorney.

``I'm not bitter. It would be hard for me to take a sworn oath at this point to uphold a system that I don't honestly believe in,'' he said.

``They treated me unfairly, and I'm just one of thousands, probably tens of thousands, who are behind bars or incarcerated for something they didn't do.''

Durley was arrested last year one month after his team, the Air Oklahoma Stars, won the 12-under Amateur Athletic Union girls' basketball national championship. He traveled to Florida last week to coach his girls' basketball team in the national championship for the second year in a row.

``All the time I was there, I was thinking if somebody came to the door, I have got to look out the peephole,'' Durley said. ``It took away from what our girls had accomplished.''

The girls lost by one point and took the runner-up silver medal at the Cocoa Beach tournament.

Durley said he has attorneys looking at filing a lawsuit against Oklahoma and Florida officials. He said he believes Gov. Frank Keating put politics first when he refused to help him.

``I still think when it is cut and dried, the bureaucracy and red tape have to cease because you have someone's life held in abeyance,'' Durley said.

``If we get to the point we don't use common sense, I think we go wrong.''