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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Testimony Alleges Plot by Police Officer

Testimony alleges plot by officer 
Tulsa World by Jarrel Wade by May 5, 2012 

A former informant for retired Tulsa Police Officer John K. "J.J." Gray told an investigator that Gray asked him to perform a heist in 1998 that involved running a TPD evidence van off the highway, possibly shooting officers inside and stealing guns, drugs and money, according to testimony in federal court Friday. Rod Baker, a private investigator and former U.S. probation chief for Oklahoma's Northern District, testified the former informant he spoke to within the last 60 days fled Oklahoma out of fear of the alleged heist plan and has not returned. Gray, a 20-year TPD veteran and former burglary detective, was released Tuesday from a federal prison in Pollock, La., after serving more than four months. Gray pleaded guilty June 14 in a federal police corruption case and was sentenced Dec. 6 to four months in prison and four years of probation. Gray, 45, admitted stealing money during an FBI sting in May 2009 and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tulsa after cooperating with special prosecutors investigating police corruption within the Tulsa Police Department. A grand jury corruption probe of the Tulsa Police Department resulted in 11 police officers being accused of criminal behavior. Two officers and a federal agent were convicted and two officers, including Gray, pleaded guilty. Two other officers, Bruce Bonham and Nick DeBruin, were acquitted on all counts and fired in January. A third acquitted officer, Bill Yelton, remains suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. Additionally, at least 44 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified because of civil rights violations or potential problems with their cases. During the hearing Friday, Baker said the informant stated he had acted as an informant and middle man for drug deals for Gray and convicted Officer Harold R. Wells beginning in about 1996. Baker testified Friday during a federal court hearing in Oklahoma's Northern District regarding several motions related to Jeffrey Dan Williams' 1997 conviction on drug charges. Williams, 52, has been in a Minnesota prison since 1997 and was set to be released in 2028. Williams petitioned for his hearing based on new evidence and police corruption testimony revealed in other court cases. He was charged in 1997 with four drug and firearms counts as part of an alleged methamphetamine distribution ring. Baker's testimony Friday detailed conversations he had recently with an alleged former informant used by Gray and Wells to get search warrants and convictions against several drug manufacturers. The informant's name was unclear and could not be confirmed independently. The informant alleged Gray made a deal that for every five drug dealers he informed on or testified against - whether legally or illegally - Gray could get one person of his choosing out of jail, Baker testified. Baker also testified that the informant said he would also get a portion of the drugs the officers seized.

About two years later in 1998, Gray allegedly planned a heist the informant was to carry out, Baker said. According to the informant's statement, Gray gave him a gun and an "electrical box" that would disable and jam police radio signals. Gray told the informant to steal from a white TPD evidence van that periodically transfers drugs, guns and other items to Oklahoma City to be incinerated, Baker said. The informant was supposed to intercept the van on its way to Oklahoma City, activate the box, run the van off the road and "kill the officers (inside) if necessary," according to Baker's testimony. According to the alleged plan, the informant would keep the drugs and deliver the guns and money to Gray, Baker testified. Soon after Gray told him the plan, the informant "got scared and moved. He has not moved back," Baker said. The World contacted Gray's attorney, Robert "Skip" Durbin, and informed him of the testimony Friday. Durbin said Baker is a respected former officer who "does his job seriously," but the informant's claims "sounds like out of the ballpark stuff to me." Since his release, Gray has moved back to the area to his three children and most likely a self-employed job in landscape work, Durbin said. Durbin said Gray respected his profession and fellow officers, and the informant's claims are too out of character. "It's not consistent with his (Gray's) personality as I know it," Durbin said. "It has no foundation in fact. I don't think it can be corroborated. ... It's just absurd." Baker's testimony came after the testimony of a man who almost completely reversed his testimony from 1997. U.S. District Judge James H. Payne stated during the hearing Friday that testimony was pivotal in tying Williams to the drug manufacturing charges. In 1997, Gregg Elliot Fillmore, 49, testified in federal court to witnessing Williams manufacture methamphetamine at various locations. On Friday, Fillmore reversed that testimony, claiming he had been coerced and coached to give that testimony by men who appeared to be law enforcement officers. Fillmore had prior drug convictions and was charged in 1993 with the murder of his wife, Darlynna Fillmore, but the charges were later dismissed after he spent nine months in jail. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they can be refiled. Fillmore testified Friday that he had been stopped by a Tulsa County Sheriff's Office deputy, who planted a marijuana pipe in his car. "I was doing meth at the time," Fillmore said. "I was not smoking marijuana." A small, red pickup truck then pulled up and an unidentified man spoke to Fillmore, he said. The man threatened him with charges and gave him a number he would later call to tell the people who answered that he knew Williams and saw him manufacture methamphetamine, Fillmore testified. Later, he said, a different man came to his home and identified himself as a federal agent, though the name he gave him was later determined to be false. One of the unidentified men threatened Fillmore with drug charges, refiling his murder charges and implied that there would be no investigation if Fillmore was found dead. "No one would investigate a dead tweaker," Fillmore quoted one of the men. "S--- happens to a tweaker." Fillmore said the threats scared him, and the implication was made that if he didn't cooperate, he'd be killed. "I did what they wanted," Fillmore said. "I called that number and said I knew Jeff (Williams) ... I was told to say I met Jeff away from everyone else. I was told to say we went to different spots." Assistant U.S. Attorney Leena Alam focused on asking Fillmore why he didn't come forward and tell any authorities about the threats. "When you have a federal agent come to your house and threaten your life and freedom, who do you tell? And would you?" Fillmore said. The number Fillmore was told to call and lie to went to investigators who he said he genuinely convinced of what he was told to say, though Fillmore said they seemed to be expecting his call. Payne responded to prosecutors' requests for more time in the case by scheduling a continuance for plaintiffs' witnesses. Defense attorney William Widell chose to wait until the continuance to rest his case.   Six officers, one agent charged in probe - The federal investigation of Tulsa police officers and a federal agent began as early as 2008 and resulted in charges against six current or former Tulsa police officers and the federal agent, as well as accusations of criminal behavior against five unindicted officers. Additionally, at least 44 people have been freed from prison or had their cases modified because of civil rights violations or potential problems with their cases. Several lawsuits have stemmed from the two-year federal investigation. Lawsuits began being filed as early as April 2010, and to date, there appear to be nine lawsuits, the World has reported.

Trials -  The first Tulsa police trial was May 31 to June 10, 2011. The second trial was Aug. 1 to Aug. 24, 2011. Jeff Henderson, a Tulsa police officer hired by TPD in 1995, was convicted on two counts of civil rights violations and six counts of perjury. He was acquitted on 45 counts of perjury, civil rights violations, drug conspiracy and witness tampering. Henderson was sentenced to 42 months in prison, which he is currently serving in South Dakota. Brandon McFadden, hired as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2002, was sentenced to 21 months in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy. McFadden cooperated with prosecutors. John K. "J.J." Gray, a former Tulsa police officer hired in 1990, pleaded guilty to stealing money and was sentenced to four months in a Louisiana prison. He was released Tuesday. Gray cooperated with prosecutors. Harold R. Wells, hired as a Tulsa police officer in 1975, was convicted on five counts, but a federal judge later dismissed one count. Wells was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, which he is currently serving in Minnesota.

Disciplinary actions -  Three police officers - Nick DeBruin, Bruce Bonham and Bill Yelton - were acquitted on civil rights violations in two separate cases. Bonham was charged with five counts and DeBruin was charged with six counts related to theft of U.S. funds, civil rights violations, drug possession and possession of firearms. TPD fired DeBruin and Bonham on Jan. 20 for "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "duty to be truthful and obedient." Yelton remains suspended with pay pending an internal affairs investigation.

Jeffrey Williams timeline - The following events in the criminal case against Jeffrey Dan Williams are taken from pleadings in his federal drug case. 1997: March 12: Tulsa Police Officers John K. "J.J." Gray, Harold R. Wells and other officers from the Special Investigations Division conduct search and seizure "with no warrant and no probable cause" of Jeffrey Dan Williams. Officers find evidence of methamphetamine manufacturing. July 11: Williams testifies during his own preliminary hearing that Gray lied about facts in the case. July 22: Gray, Officer Jeff Henderson and Officer Bill Yelton conduct a second "warrantless search and seizure with no probable cause" of Williams, which later became counts 3 and 4 of Williams' indictment. November: First indictment filed against Williams, and he is arrested again. 1998: Friday's testimony: Gray plans a heist that involves an informant running a TPD evidence van off the road and shooting the officers inside, according to a witness who spoke with the former informant. April 29: A third superseding indictment charges Williams with conspiracy, drug possession, weapon possession, witness tampering and drug distribution charges. Aug. 31: Williams files a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and nullify plea agreement. Sept. 10: Williams' motion to withdraw his plea is denied. Dec. 4: Williams is convicted and sentenced to serve time in prison until 2028. 2008: After several motions to change his plea and reopen his case were denied for a decade, a motion by Williams gets traction. 2009-2010: Williams' case is reassigned to a new judge, and attorneys make appearances. Jan. 18, 2012: U.S. District Judge James H. Payne directs U.S. attorneys to respond to Williams' motion to withdraw his guilty plea. May 5, 2012: Williams will appear in court for the first time in almost 15 years. Original Print Headline: Testimony alleges plot by officer Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367

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