A group of black leaders and pastors called Friday for community support for an Oklahoma County judge accused of misconduct, but a prosecutor said Tammy Bass-LeSure "put herself in this position."
"It's incredibly unfortunate that this judge did this and it affected this case," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said of a murder case involving a pharmacist.
"It's incredibly irresponsible, it's immoral and it's corrupt. And it's her fault — her fault, no one else's — that we're in this situation right now," the district attorney said.
The group of two dozen black leaders and pastors gathered in front of the media Friday at the fellowship hall of the Fairview Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City to urge support for Bass-LeSure.
"We believe in her," said J.A. Reed Jr., the Fairview Baptist Church pastor. "She's a proven leader."
The group also called for a civil rights investigation of Prater for "going after" Bass-LeSure and another black judge.
"It is in times like these that one sees who their true allies and true enemies are," Reed said. "We encourage Tammy to stand strong."
The district attorney said he would welcome an investigation by any credible agency such as the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division in Washington, D.C.
"I have nothing to hide," he said.
Prater said of the judge, "Unfortunately, she's put herself in this position. It's not anything the district attorney's office did. ... I had a duty to act, and that's what we did."
Prater, who is white, said he is not a racist.
"It just really doesn't matter to me what your skin color is," he said. "We're going to seek justice, period."
Judge asked to leave pharmacist's case
Bass-LeSure on Tuesday took herself off the high-profile murder case involving the Oklahoma City pharmacist. She stepped aside after prosecutors complained about her fairness.
Prosecutors asked for her removal because she gave a gym trainer the names of three attorneys even though he had a drug case assigned to her. Prosecutors had the gym trainer wear a hidden microphone July 22 to record a conversation with the judge. Prosecutors told the judge this week they would file a judicial complaint against her, sources have said.
One attorney listed by the judge is representing the pharmacist.
Prater said again Friday that he cannot legally reveal whether he has filed a judicial complaint.
"What became obvious to us is that the state of Oklahoma was not going to be able to receive a fair trial due to some activities — alleged activities — by the judge in this case. And that's why we've had to do what we've done," Prater said.
The district attorney also said Friday he will ask Bass-LeSure to step down from handling all criminal cases involving the three attorneys — Michael S. Johnson, Joe Brett Reynolds and Kendra Gill.
Bass-LeSure, 43, did not attend the news conference in her support. She has declined to comment since making a brief statement Tuesday about her decision to step down. She has been a district judge almost 12 years.
Her husband, Karlos LeSure, was at the news conference. He identified himself as her husband and an associate minister at the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church. He did not make any other statements.
Reed accused the district attorney of misusing his power this year to slander and to try to intimidate the only two elected black judges at the Oklahoma County Courthouse.
"There are other judges in that courthouse who have gone through far worse situations without any threat of investigation or threats of judicial complaint," Reed said.
Reed said the district attorney should remember that the black community helped him get elected to the position four years ago. "And you also need to know that we are watching, and we will remember," Reed said.
Anthony R. Douglas, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, "We need the DA office investigated.... We will no longer stand by."
Douglas also said he plans to lead a rally to the courthouse to demand that the pharmacist's trial be televised.
The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, is charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of a masked robber. The pharmacist said he was defending himself and two female employees, but prosecutors allege he went too far.
The jury trial was delayed almost three months, to Dec. 6, after a new judge took over the case Tuesday.
Ersland, 58, is white. The robber, Antwun "Speedy" Parker, 16, was black.
"It's an incredible irony that I was being accused of pandering to the black community when I filed this charge. Now, I'm a racist because I asked the judge to get off of it? It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?" Prater said.
Prosecutors earlier this year asked District Judge Kenneth Watson, who is black, to step down from several criminal cases. The district attorney said he or his assistants have asked almost every judge handling criminal cases to step aside from some cases because of concerns.
"That's done fairly often in this courthouse.... It's handled privately, and normally the judge does the right thing," Prater said.
DA, judge get new terms
Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and District Attorney David Prater did not get opponents this election year, so both will have new four-year terms.