Tulsa World by David Harper - December 29, 2010
Grand jury investigates police corruption: Read all of the stories, view a timeline and read key documents. A federal judge on Wednesday delayed the trial of suspended Tulsa Police Department officers Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton for almost five months, finding that additional time is required for the defense to conduct investigations, review discovery and otherwise prepare for trial. The decision by U.S. District Judge Bruce Black to push back the trial from Jan. 31 until June 20 came one day after he moved the trial of suspended TPD officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham and retired officer Harold R. Wells to March 21. They had also been set to go to trial Jan. 31. In both orders, Black noted that he had already declared both matters to be “complex” cases in August. That designation was in response to a prosecution motion by U.S. Attorney Jane Duke. Duke’s motion states that pre-trial discovery could consist of more than 30,000 pages of documents and includes “voluminous” materials subpoenaed by the grand jury investigating corruption connected to the Tulsa Police Department. Duke wrote that it “will require an extraordinary amount of time by the attorneys involved to review, understand, and digest the enormous amount of discovery to be provided as well as to conduct investigations regarding those matters.” After the case was categorized as complex, Black moved the trials from last Sept. 13 to Jan. 31. However, defense motions filed earlier this month indicated more time was needed to prepare. In a Dec. 16 joint filing, attorneys for Henderson and Yelton informed the court that the amount of documents related to the probe had grown to more than 76,000. “The time allotted by the court until Jan. 31 to prepare (a) defense in this case is insufficient to permit the defendants to investigate adequately all defenses, track down witnesses, interview witnesses and review the voluminous paper and audio discovery,” they wrote. The attorneys for Henderson and Yelton added this is a unique criminal case because many of the defense witnesses will be law enforcement personnel and that interviewing them and reviewing their records is proving to be “a very slow process.” In the case involving Bonham, DeBruin and Wells, Bonham attorney William D. Lunn wrote in a Dec. 16 pleading, “the discovery materials provided by the government have become so voluminous that the time provided to review them has proven to be insufficient.” Lunn suggested a March setting for the trial involving his client and counsel for Wells and DeBruin did not object. Attorneys Stephen Jones and Robert Wyatt IV, on behalf of Henderson, and Scott Graham and Anthony Allen, representing Yelton, had requested a June trial in that case. The prosecution did not file an objection to either motion. Black noted in his Wednesday order that defendants have not had sufficient time to prepare their defense and that conducting a trial starting on Jan. 31 “in the face of these facts would be contrary to the interests of justice.” Bonham, DeBruin and Wells are on bond. Henderson and Yelton are awaiting their trial while in jail. Henderson and Yelton were indicted together last July in a 61-count indictment. Henderson was named in 58 counts: 22 counts related to perjury, 20 related to alleged civil rights violations, 12 connected to drug crimes, two witness tampering charges, one firearms count and one attempted bribery count. Yelton was charged in seven counts: four related to alleged civil rights violations, two related to purported witness tampering and one connected to a perjury allegation. In a separate indictment, Wells was charged with 10 counts that included conspiracy and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and DeBruin was charged with six counts that include distributing crack cocaine and conspiracy to steal money. Bonham was accused in that indictment in five counts that include distributing crack and methamphetamine and conspiracy to steal U.S. funds.