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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Judge Says Case Against Officers Can Advance

Judge says case against officers can advance
The Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - April 7, 2011

A federal judge has ruled that prosecutors can proceed with numerous counts of drug conspiracy, witness tampering and bribery in a criminal case involving alleged Tulsa police corruption. U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of New Mexico ruled Tuesday that special prosecutors had met the requirement for using co-conspirator statements for the upcoming trial of Officers Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton, federal court records show. Henderson and Yelton were indicted July 20 in U.S. District Court in Tulsa. Henderson faces 58 criminal counts, including 11 conspiracy counts, with four overlapping with Yelton's charges. Henderson and Yelton have denied any wrongdoing. While Black is allowing the conspiracy allegations to go forward, he also is expected to reduce the number of counts alleging drug distribution and perjury against Henderson based on defense motions that raised the question of duplicity in the charges, the World has reported. The charges against Henderson include 22 counts related to perjury, 20 related to civil rights violations, 12 related to drugs, two alleging witness tampering, and one each alleging a firearms crime and attempted bribery. Yelton was indicted on seven counts: four related to civil rights violations, two related to witness tampering and one related to suborning perjury. An eighth count of alleged attempted retaliation against a witness was added in September. Both officers are drug detectives assigned to the Tulsa Police Department's Special Investigations Division. Both have been ordered held in jail without bail since July. Their trial is scheduled to begin June 20. Last week, Black made a similar ruling involving conspiracy counts going forward in a separate indictment of three other Tulsa police officers. Officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham, and retired Officer Harold R. Wells are charged with conspiracy to plant drugs on individuals and conspiracy to steal U.S. funds. The trial for those defendants is set to begin May 16.

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