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Friday, August 12, 2011

Tulsa Prosecution Rests in Corruption Trial

Prosecution rests case in TPD corruption trial by Abbie Alford - August 11, 2011

The prosecutor has rested her case in the TPD corruption trial after nine days of testimony. Officers Jeff Henderson and Officer Bill Yelton are charged with 62 counts including perjury, lying about informants to get search warrants, coaching witnesses and threatening witnesses. Henderson also faces charges of planting drugs, stealing drugs and drug money. Two witnesses took the stand regarding Henderson's charge of bribing former ATF agent Brandon McFadden. Private investigator Eric Cullen testified about text messages he exchanged with married and former ATF Agent Brandon McFadden's girlfriend, Amie Slemaker.

Prosecutors allege Cullen was working with Officer Jeff Henderson to convince McFadden to take a pro bono attorney and avoid talking to law enforcement about the investigation. The defense says it was all Slemaker's idea and Henderson did not directly instruct McFadden to use an attorney that would ultimately help his case. Slemaker testified most of her contact was with Cullen and she wanted to do what she could to help Henderson and McFadden. However, Slemaker accuses Henderson of pressing her for information about McFadden. "I need to know that you are on my team," says Slemaker of Henderson. The defense argues it was Slemaker who made the initial contact with Cullen. At the end of the day of the defense asked the bribery count be dismissed because of Cullen’s and Slemaker’s testimony that Henderson was not directly involved in the allegations. “I was skeptical of it coming in and I’m still skeptical,” said U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of New Mexico. Slemaker or Cullen are not charged with a crime. The last person who claims his civil rights were violated in an alleged search warrant, Ronald Crawford, 36, took the stand. He testified he was in Texas the day Henderson’s reported he conducted surveillance on his home. A judge believed enough evidence was collected to issue a search warrant and police found a gun and $9,000 hidden under a sink. Crawford is a felon and cannot posses a gun. The case was dismissed.

The government called 40 witnesses that includem informants, admitted drug dealers, ex-cons, their girlfriends, family members, co-workers, an informant's neighbor. McFadden's girlfriend, the defense's private investigator, a detention officer, an FBI Agent, U.S. prosecutors in the Eastern District over cases dismissed, a Tulsa Police Sergeant and officials who verfied witnesses whearabouts during search warrants were also called. An officer not charged in the case but his name has been brought up from witnesses alleging he was involved in criminal activity with McFadden and Henderson was scheduled to take the stand for the government. However, after lunch U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said he was not going to be called. The defense will start its case tomorrow starting with Yelton’s case. He is charged with 8 counts of perjury, violating people’s civil rights, coaching and threatening witnesses. The defense has a list of 103 witnesses; a majority includes Tulsa police officers. After the prosecution rested, Yelton’s defense made a motion to dismiss five of the eight counts. They argue the government did not call all the witnesses involved in the counts Yelton violated their civil rights through alleged bogus search warrants or the witnesses did not testify Yelton was involved in the search warrant. On a separate case, they also argue the informant, Rochelle Martin, did not testify Yelton coached her to lie under oath. The prosecution argues Henderson’s name was on those search warrants and he was present when Henderson allegedly threatened Martin. “I think he is a police partner and a partner in crime,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris. Henderson’s defense team made a motion to dismiss seven of the 54 counts arguing that Martin testified she was not scared of Henderson. They also argued the government did not call all the witnesses involved in the counts Henderson violated their civil rights through alleged bogus search warrants. Judge Black can wait until jury instructions to make a decision.

Prosecution wrap-up: Many of the witnesses are convicted felons and admitted drug dealers who also admit they’ve lied under oath. At least two took the stand today who were not felons. They jury will have to decide if the officers went outside the law to bust them for drugs. However, the defense argues some of the witnesses on the stand will do or say anything to save themselves, such as lying to get out of prison, charges dropped or getting out of prison sooner. Former ATF Agent Brandon McFadden pleaded guilty to lesser charges and is testifying against the officers. A handful of witnesses allege McFadden was the corrupt leader. Retired TPD Officer JJ Gray also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced after trial. He is listed to testify against the officers. McFadden and Gray are out on bond. Yelton and Henderson have been denied bond and have been in jail since last summer. In a separate case, in June a federal jury acquitted two TPD officers, Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham and retired Corporal Harold R. Wells was found guilty of corruption. He is in jail awaiting sentencing. Abbie Alford Email:

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