Tulsa World by Omer Gillham and Ginnie Graham - August 7, 2011
The first week of a monthlong police trial ended Friday and featured key government witnesses who testified that Tulsa police officers engaged in drug deals, falsified search warrants and stole drug money for personal gain. Meanwhile, defense attorneys exposed inconsistent statements and untrue statements by witnesses. The police corruption trial for officers Jeff Henderson, 38, and Bill Yelton, 50, began Monday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa. The trial is expected to last three to five weeks. Henderson and Yelton are veteran drug detectives indicted under seal July 19, 2010, on civil rights violations and other alleged crimes. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke of eastern Arkansas is overseeing the prosecution's case, while veteran attorney Stephen Jones is a member of the defense team. U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of New Mexico is presiding. Meanwhile, a sixth lawsuit has been filed against the City of Tulsa and police officers alleged to have violated the civil rights of numerous individuals wrongly imprisoned. Demario T. Harris filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court, naming Henderson, Yelton and the City of Tulsa as defendants, records show. Harris alleges that Yelton acted in concert with Henderson to fabricate the facts of a search warrant to secure his arrest, the lawsuit states. After being convicted April 20, 2005, Harris was sentenced to life in prison and served seven years before being freed Oct. 28, 2010, as part of the police corruption probe, a World investigation shows. Harris was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a felon. He is suing the officers and the city for alleged deprivation of civil rights and negligence, his lawsuit states. Five previous lawsuits have been filed by individuals who allege they were wrongfully incarcerated. They include Larry Wayne Barnes Sr., Larita Annette Barnes, Bobby Wayne Haley Sr., Patrick Neil London and DeMarco Williams. Noted attorney Clark Brewster has agreed to donate his legal services to the city to defend lawsuits resulting from the grand jury investigation of the Tulsa Police Department. In total, the indictment against Henderson and Yelton contains the names of 32 victims whose civil rights allegedly were violated by the officers. Not all of the individuals were incarcerated. During the first week of the trial for Henderson and Yelton, prosecutors called 13 witnesses that included drug dealers, a prison inmate, an FBI agent, a police sergeant and a private citizen. Witnesses also included several former and current federal prosecutors from the Northern District of Oklahoma. Two key witnesses were former Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Brandon McFadden, 34, and drug felon Rochelle Martin, 36. Martin provided extensive details of alleged criminal behavior by Henderson and Yelton. During her testimony, Martin said that she lied for Henderson and Yelton to help frame Bobby Wayne Haley Sr. Haley was freed from prison in May 2010, after serving about four years in prison. Additionally, Martin testified that she was not the informant listed by Henderson and Yelton on numerous search warrants used to bring felony cases against individuals in Tulsa. Prosecutors allege that Martin was a "throw-down" informant used by the officers to gain probable cause for illegal searches. McFadden detailed for prosecutors his criminal activity, mostly involving Officer Jeff Henderson but including Officers Frank Khalil and Sean Larkin. He also said that Henderson made up information to obtain search warrants. Under questioning from attorney Anthony Allen, Martin said she had lied on many occasions. When defense attorneys begin their case, key witnesses are expected to include Henderson and Yelton, who will take the stand in their defense. In opening statements, Jones said Henderson will testify and "explain how each piece of evidence is handled" and recorded. Another police trial ended June 10 with the acquittal of two police officers and the conviction of one former officer. Retired Cpl. Harold R. Wells, 60, was convicted June 10 on five of 10 counts that included knowingly carrying and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (methamphetamine), conspiracy to steal U.S. funds, stealing U.S. funds and use of a telephone to commit a felony.
The Week in Review
Monday’s developments - Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen — eight women, six men. Opening statements were presented by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Interesting moment - U.S. District Judge Bruce Black lightened the mood during juror questioning after a prospective juror said she watched television news only for the weather. “It’s going to be simple: It’s going to be hot,” Black replied.
Key statements - Federal prosecutors detailed a “super-secret all-star database” of confidential informant names kept by and accessible only to the Tulsa Police Department. Defense attorneys said defendants Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton will take the stand and testify.
Tuesday’s developments - Seven prosecution witnesses testified. Prosecutors provided witness testimony indicating that Henderson and Yelton provided false information on affidavits for search warrants. Defense attorneys appeared to show inconsistencies in the Tulsa Police Department’s policies for documenting and tracking different types of informants.
Interesting moment - When William Kinnard was asked by defense attorneys if he was a drug dealer, he paused and then said, “Occasionally.”
Key testimony - Three witnesses said they never knew or recognized a confidential informant Henderson used to gain search warrants for their property. A fourth witness said search warrant information attributed to her for a drug bust was partially “bogus.”
Wednesday’s developments - Informant Rochelle Martin testified about her relationship with the officers. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leena Alam testified about efforts the government took to protect Martin as a reliable confidential informant on behalf of Henderson.
Interesting moment - During cross-examination, Rochelle Martin said she is on dialysis for kidney failure and frequents hospitals. “So you’re not supposed to use drugs?” asked defense attorney Nicole Babbitt. “Who is supposed to use drugs?” Martin responded.
Key testimony - Martin was the featured witness and made the following claims in testimony:
- She sold drugs for Henderson.
- She apologized to a man she helped frame for Henderson in 2005.
- She lied to a federal judge at Henderson’s request.
- She was falsely used as the source of information on several warrants sought by Henderson and Yelton.
Interesting moment - After McFadden said he was present when a Tulsa police officer assaulted a reputed drug dealer and threatened to take his child out of his custody, defense attorney Stephen Jones questioned why he stood by. “You’re a federal agent, are you not?” Jones asked. “Yes,” McFadden replied. “The north won the Civil War, wouldn’t you say?” Jones asked. McFadden remained silent. “Your jurisdiction is superior,” Jones said.
Key testimony - McFadden testified for about six hours, five of which were for the prosecution. He said he:
- Stole drugs and money from crime scenes with Henderson on at least three occasions.
- Knew that Henderson gave drugs to drug dealers.
- Illegally entered the home of a reported drug dealer with three Tulsa police officers.
- Knew that Henderson falsified information on search warrant affidavits.
- Was threatened by Henderson and Yelton when thought to be a “snitch.”
Interesting moment - Defense attorney Tony Allen was questioning Martin about various favors the federal government has provided her since she became a witness including a cell phone and transportation to medical appointments. Allen asked her about the experience of staying at a Kansas hotel for nearly three weeks after FBI agents suspected her home was being watched. “What would you say if I told you the federal government spent $2,200?” Allen asked. “How much?” Martin asked. “$2,200,” Allen replied. “I’d say they got ripped off,” Martin said. Martin later testified she cried everyday while in the hotel and said, “It had fleas.”
Key testimony - McFadden testified he didn’t tell anyone, including his wife, of threats made against him by Henderson and Yelton because of the criminal activity they were all involved in. Martin testified she “lies for her friends.” Raley said he prosecuted a drug case strictly on the testimony provided by McFadden, Henderson and an informant they used.
Omer Gillham 918-581-8301 - firstname.lastname@example.org --- Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376 - email@example.com