Oklahoma County court jury convicts Carroll Fisher on both counts

Wednesday, February 8th 2006, 5:40 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Former state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher was found guilty by an Oklahoma County jury Wednesday on one count each of embezzlement and perjury.

The 12-member panel, which deliberated about two hours after less than two days of testimony, recommended that Fisher receive a 1-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine on the embezzlement count, said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office.

Jurors also found Fisher guilty of one count of perjury and suggested he receive a 2-year prison term and pay a $10,000 fine, Price said.

"The jury's sentencing recommendation shows just how strong the case against him is and how little tolerance there is for someone who so blatantly misuses a public office," Edmondson said in a statement.

Bail was denied for Fisher, who turned 66 on Wednesday, and he was handcuffed and taken into custody, Price said.

The embezzlement case is the first of five criminal cases against Fisher to go to trial. He also faces other criminal charges including bribery, filing a false income tax return, failure to pay over money to the state and failure to report charitable contributions. Trial dates have not been set in those cases.

"Carroll Fisher's abuse of the public trust has made him a convicted felon," Edmondson said. "We believe the evidence will prove his guilt in the remaining cases as clearly as it has in this case."

Prosecutors allege Fisher embezzled his own state campaign funds when he deposited a $1,000 campaign check into his overdrawn personal banking account in May 2003. He was accused of lying for never disclosing the $1,000 on his state campaign reports.

Fisher argued that he planned to use the money to "test the waters" for a 2004 U.S. Senate campaign.

The prosecution's final exhibit, however, shows Fisher didn't officially start his U.S. Senate campaign until January 2004 and never disclosed a donation from Mississippi insurance company owner Johnny Morgan on his federal campaign reports.

After he was charged, Fisher returned $1,000 to Morgan, who had made conflicting statements before and during trial about which campaign was supposed to receive the money. Morgan's secretary wrote "campaign" on a memo line but was not more specific.

Fisher resigned in 2004 shortly before he was to face a trial in the state Senate on five articles of impeachment approved by the House that accused him of incompetence, neglect of duty and corruption.

Gov. Brad Henry said Fisher's conviction sends a clear message that public corruption will not be tolerated in Oklahoma.

"Public officials must be held to the highest of ethical standards," Henry said in a statement.

Testimony at Fisher's criminal trial began Tuesday morning and wrapped up Wednesday. District Judge Susan Caswell denied a motion to declare a mistrial after a witness mentioned the impeachment proceedings against him.

Fisher, who now works in San Diego, did not testify.