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Board recommends leniency for drug dealer sentenced to life without parole

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 Wednesday to recommend commutation of a 1997 sentence for a Kingfisher County drug dealer. The recommendation will now go to Gov. Mary Fallin.
BY PAUL MONIES Published: August 18, 2011

The Pardon and Parole Board recommended Wednesday a convicted drug dealer from Kingfisher who is serving life without parole should have his sentence commuted to 42 years.

The recommendation for Larry E. Yarbrough, 61, now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin. Yarbrough has been in prison since 1997. The board recommended a commuted sentence for Yarbrough in 2002, but then-Gov. Frank Keating denied the request.

The five-member board issued a 3-2 split decision at a hearing room packed with Yarbrough's family members and supporters at Hillsdale Community Corrections Center in Oklahoma City.

Two board members voted not to commute the sentence. Two others recommended Yarbrough's sentence be commuted to time served. One member said the sentence should be commuted to 42 years. If Fallin approves the board's recommendation, Yarbrough could be eligible for parole next year.

Yarbrough, a former restaurant owner, was sentenced to life without parole in 1997 on a cocaine trafficking charge. Previously, he served time in prison in the early 1980s on convictions for LSD and marijuana distribution. Yarbrough also received probation for a felony conviction of receiving stolen property.

State law requires a life-without-parole sentence for drug-trafficking charges after prior convictions for two or more felonies.

In a videoconferencing appearance before the board, Yarbrough said he's been a model prisoner who counseled young men entering prison. He said he planned to move to California with family if he ever got released from prison.

“I have turned my life around and bettered myself,” said Yarbrough, who is at the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville. “I have taken every drug program they have.”

Yarbrough's family and supporters said his sentence was too harsh.

“He's served his time already, and he just needs to be out,” said Yarbrough's niece, Rhonda Campbell, of Edmond. “I know my uncle is all about the law, and he does respect the people, but this was too much for that type of felony. We're just going to keep praying and keep positive.”

Governor's review

Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Fallin, said the governor would have no comment until she reviews the board's recommendation for Yarbrough.

Mike Fields, the district attorney for a five-county area including Kingfisher County, spoke before the board Wednesday morning. Fields asked them not to commute Yarbrough's sentence. He cited Yarbrough's criminal history and the board's power to consider the commutation of life-without-parole sentences. Fields said the matter should be left to the Legislature.

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