© Copyright 2012, The Oklahoman
A state multicounty grand jury is looking into whether critics of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater falsified information about a 2006 victory party in an effort to smear him, The Oklahoman has learned.
State law enforcement agents last year investigated allegations about whether Prater, a Democrat, violated laws on campaign donations because of the party. The agents from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation questioned campaign donors, party participants and Prater.
The OSBI at the time confirmed agents were reviewing allegations of official misconduct.
The grand jury, though, appears to be focusing now on whether Prater’s accusers broke the law, sources told The Oklahoman.
At issue is whether a restaurant owner’s typed statement last year about who paid $12,700 for the party is a lie.
The owner, Wade Starr, now insists the April 2011 affidavit is incorrect, sources said.
Grand jurors specifically are looking at what involvement Oklahoma City defense attorney Joe Brett Reynolds and any other attorney had in getting the statement from the owner of the upscale restaurant, sources said.
Prater, 52, and Reynolds, 44, have been at odds. Reynolds is dying of brain cancer, friends said last week. His wife said last week he is bedridden, cannot talk and cannot walk.
One friend, prominent defense attorney Irven Box, said anybody claiming Reynolds did anything wrong on the affidavit is a coward.
“They’re trying to pick on someone who is extremely ill,” Box said. “I can’t believe, frankly, they would stoop that low.”
The victory party was thrown for Prater on Nov. 20, 2006, at Cafe Nova, about two weeks after Prater defeated the incumbent district attorney, Wes Lane.
Attorneys Scott Adams, Ron Wallace, Josh Welch and David Ogle have said they and other attorneys all chipped in money to help pay for the party.
Prater has said the party was not arranged by his campaign and was not a campaign fundraiser. He has said he did not report what attorneys paid for the party as donations to his 2006 campaign because the money did not benefit the campaign. He has denied wrongdoing.
He confirmed Friday he cooperated fully in the OSBI investigation. He said he talked freely with an OSBI agent and did not have any attorney present. Prater declined last week to discuss what the grand jury is doing.
Accusations about the victory party began surfacing a year ago. An anonymous letter sent to the media claimed one attorney, Lewis B. Moon, actually paid for the entire party. The letter suggested the expense of the party was an illegal, excessive campaign donation.
The letter also suggested Prater later gave Moon favorable treatment after Moon was charged in 2008 with being in actual physical control of a car while intoxicated and other offenses.
Those accusations eventually made their way to the attorney general’s office, which guides the grand jury. Offered in support of the accusations was the typed and notarized affidavit signed by Starr.
The affidavit states the party was held “to celebrate and raise money for Mr. David Prater.”
“The bill was paid by Lewis B. Moon, a frequent customer of my restaurants, at Mr. Prater’s request. Mr. Moon paid this bill completely with his credit card on the date of the event,” the affidavit states.
Starr last year declined to comment to The Oklahoman. However, he did talk last year to Andrew Speno, then the anchor for an Oklahoma City television station.
“He said ... Reynolds had shoved this paper in front of him,” Speno recalled Friday. “Starr said he signed it just because he didn’t want to offend one of his best customers ... Reynolds. ... He said there was no notary there ... He said, ‘He just stuck it in front of me and had me sign it.’”
Speno also said, “According to Starr, what was in that ... wasn’t true. ... He said he signed it because Reynolds asked him to and Reynolds was one of his best customers.”
Starr is believed to be cooperating in the grand jury inquiry.
Former Attorney General Larry Derryberry confirmed last week he is representing Starr.
“I have confidence in his integrity,” Derryberry said.
Grand jurors last took testimony about the issue Wednesday. Their sessions are not open to the public. Grand jurors meet again May 15.
Among those testifying Wednesday was Moon. Afterward, his attorney, John Coyle, told The Oklahoman, “L.B. Moon did not pay for that party.”
Coyle stressed he could not reveal what Moon told the grand jury. He said, though, that the accusation that Moon did pay for the party is not fair because Moon “just went.”
Also testifying Wednesday was Jennifer Chrisman, the notary on Starr’s affidavit, and Marilyn Hughes, the executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Hughes declined to comment Friday.
The main assistant attorney general who advises the grand jury also declined to comment Friday.
Sources have said Reynolds would have known the restaurant owner affidavit could not be true because he was one of the attorneys who helped pay for the party.
Reynolds never testified before the grand jury because of his poor health.