The Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - May 31, 2011
With the first of two police trials scheduled to begin Tuesday, federal prosecutors have filed a witness list and additional details about alleged corruption among Tulsa police officers, records show. Meanwhile, defense attorneys have also filed extensive witness lists and challenges to the governments' attempt to introduce additional witness statements during the trial, U.S. District Court in Tulsa records show. More than 18 months ago, the Tulsa World first reported that a federal grand jury was looking into allegations of stolen drugs and money, falsified search warrants and other alleged crimes by Tulsa police officers and a former federal agent. Thus far, six current and former police officers and one former ATF agent have been charged in U.S. District Court in Tulsa. Thirty-three people have been freed from prison or have had cases dismissed or modified as a result of the federal probe. The trial of Officer Bruce Bonham, 53, Officer Nick DeBruin, 38, and retired Officer Harold R. Wells, 60, begins Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of New Mexico. A second trail involving Officers Jeff Henderson, 38, and Bill Yelton, 50, is scheduled to begin July 25.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke, of eastern Arkansas, recently filed court papers detailing the government's exhibit list and witness list in the case. Duke's office is expected to offer FBI surveillance video and witness statements which allege that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham stole money during an FBI sting in May 2009 at a local hotel. Additionally, former Tulsa police officers cooperating with Duke's office are expected to testify that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham planted drugs on individuals to gain convictions, court records state. Wells, DeBruin and Bonham have denied any wrongdoing. Their attorneys allege that Duke's office is relying upon unreliable witnesses and faulty evidence to argue the government's case against the officers, court records show. On May 9, Duke filed a request asking Black to approve the government's use of witness statements that will detail alleged complicit or criminal behavior by Wells, DeBruin and Bonham in relationship to Henderson, court record show. Henderson is a veteran drug detective charged with 58 counts of drug conspiracy, witness tampering and perjury in his own indictment. While Henderson is not charged in the officers' case, testimony from government witnesses will allegedly show that Wells, DeBruin and Bonham were aware of Henderson's alleged criminal acts and did nothing to intervene or that they benefited from his alleged criminal behavior. For example, Bonham is accused of being present when Henderson allegedly took two pounds of methamphetamine from a drug search and later distributed the drugs for personal gain, Duke's filing states. Bonham also is accused of allegedly accepting money from stolen drugs that were sold by former ATF agent Brandon McFadden, Duke's filing states. McFadden is a key government witness who has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy May 6, 2010, and is cooperating with prosecutors while he awaits sentencing, records show. McFadden is expected to testify that on June 12, 2007, he, Henderson, Bonham and two other Tulsa police officers conducted a consensual search of Isaias Gonzalez' residence in Tulsa, Duke's filing states.
During the search, multiple pounds of methamphetamine were found, and Henderson allegedly removed two to three pounds of methamphetamine to keep for his own personal benefit, the filing states. Bonham was complicit in not reporting the alleged criminal wrongdoing by Henderson, Duke's filing states. In a second incident allegedly involving Bonham, McFadden is expected to testify that on Feb. 26, 2008, Bonham and an unnamed Tulsa police officer assisted McFadden in making a traffic stop of three Hispanic males at a Tulsa car wash, Duke's filing alleges. Bonham and the other police officer allegedly allowed McFadden to leave the car wash with a half kilogram of cocaine while less than 10 grams was booked in to evidence by the unnamed police officer, Duke's filing states. "McFadden will further testify that a few days later, he (McFadden) paid Bonham a few hundred dollars for Bonham's 'assistance,' in making the traffic stop and drug find," Duke's filing states. McFadden will testify that he knew the payment to Bonham was acceptable because he had seen Officer Henderson pay Bonham before for making traffic stops, Duke's filing alleges. In a separate filing of witness statements by Duke, Wells is accused of taking several pounds of marijuana during a 2007 traffic stop, keeping it several days before allegedly turning it over to another police officer, who distributed the drugs through a known drug dealer, Duke's filing on May 9 states. John K. (J.J.) Gray, a former Tulsa police burglary detective, is expected to testify that Wells allegedly stored seven pounds of marijuana at his home before giving it to Gray, who gave it to drug felon Debra Clayton to be sold, Duke's filing states. Clayton is expected to testify and to corroborate the alleged marijuana sale. Gray has pleaded guilty in the corruption probe and is cooperating with Duke's office. In a separate incident involving DeBruin, Duke's office is seeking to enter testimony by former Tulsa Police Officer Callison Kaiser, her filing states. Kaiser is expected to testify that DeBruin told him that he was aware that Wells had taken money for his own benefit as a Tulsa police officer, Duke's filing states. DeBruin also allegedly told Kaiser that he knew that Henderson allegedly falsified information on search warrants, Duke's filing states.
"This admission by defendant DeBruin to Kaiser, made on a date prior to May 18, 2009, demonstrates DeBruin's knowledge of wrongdoing by a TPD officer and DeBruin's failure to report such wrongdoing to TPD management," Duke's filing states. Kaiser was hired by Tulsa police on Oct. 8, 2004, and resigned in August 2008. As a government witness, Kaiser has prosecutorial immunity, a World investigation has shown. The government's witness list includes about 10 law enforcement officers, cooperating drug felons, federal agents and court officials, such as former U.S. Attorney David O'Meilia and Police Chief Chuck Jordan. Meanwhile, defense attorneys for Wells, DeBruin and Bonham have also filed extensive witness and exhibit lists that include dozens of police officers, investigators, drug felons and others, court records show. Each defendants' list includes 60 or more names, with many names overlapping. The list also includes the names of witnesses who defense attorneys hope to use to allegedly expose Gray and other government witnesses, records show. For example, DeBruin has listed the name of convicted burglar Jerry Clyde Stephenson, who has alleged that Gray took merchandise from a burglary and tipped off Stephenson about an investigation involving Stephenson, court records show. Omer Gillham 918-581-8301