Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure told her personal trainer in private that she would not sentence him to prison if he would plead before her to a pending drug charge, sources have told The Oklahoman.
The judge was not in her office Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. She has been a district judge almost 12 years.
Private conversations between Bass-LeSure and personal trainer Colton Taz Ama prompted prosecutors on Monday to ask Bass-LeSure to step down from presiding over the murder trial of Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Jay Ersland. One of the conversations was secretly recorded.
The judge complied with the request after closed-door meetings Tuesday with prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Ama's drug case had been before Bass-LeSure but has been reassigned to another judge.
Under the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are not supposed to offer legal advice to people with cases pending before them outside the presence of attorneys involved in the case.
Ama's attorney, Rick Rice, notified District Attorney David Prater of a possible violation of that code by Bass-LeSure. The attorney acted after the trainer informed him of a conversation with the judge at a local gym.
"While I can't comment on my client's case or any of the specific facts about the case, the only thing I can confirm is that I notified the district attorney's office several months ago of a concern that I had when it was brought to my attention by my client, as any other attorney would do," Rice said.
"This is not a situation that I put my client in or I put the judge in. I merely reported what I felt my ethical obligation was under the rules of ethics and the code of conduct that attorneys have."
The district attorney responded by asking Ama if he would agree to secretly record Bass-LeSure the next time they had a training session, sources have told The Oklahoman. Ama, 20, reportedly did so July 22, wearing a hidden microphone.
When Ama and the judge next met, Bass-LeSure handed Ama a written list of three attorneys and told him they knew how to operate in her court, sources said.
The names on the list were Michael Johnson, Joe Brett Reynolds and Kendra Gill, a source said. Johnson and Reynolds are experienced criminal defense attorneys, while Gill became an attorney earlier this year.
Bass-LeSure was asked to step down from the pharmacist's case because Reynolds is one of his attorneys. Prosecutors were concerned Reynolds might have some favored status in her courtroom.
Reynolds told The Oklahoman on Tuesday he didn't understand why that conversation would call into question the judge's impartiality.
He accused Prater of taking action because he didn't like the judge. Reynolds said he offered to withdraw from the case if that would make a difference.
Johnson, Gill and Ama could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ama is charged with one count of drug distribution and two counts of drug possession.
Edmond police arrested him and his fiancee at their Edmond apartment on April 7 after they allegedly sold OxyContin to a confidential informant at their residence.
Ersland trial set for Dec. 6
An Oklahoma City pharmacist's murder trial has been reset to Dec. 6.
At a hearing Wednesday, Oklahoma County District Judge Ray C. Elliott postponed the trial and ruled it will not be televised. The trial was set for Sept. 13.
Jerome Jay Ersland, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the fatal 2009 shooting of a masked robber.