The owner of an assisted-living company told jurors Thursday at a bribery trial that Mike Morgan wanted $1,000 a month when he asked the then-Senate leader in 2006 for help with regulators.
“This is the way it works: You pay me a $1,000-a-month retainer,” the witness, Sam Crosby, recalled Morgan saying.
“I looked at him a little bit and said, ‘Is that legal?'” Crosby, 70, testified.
He said Morgan, an attorney, replied, “Yeah, that's legal.”
“It didn't sound right to me,” Crosby told jurors at the federal trial in Oklahoma City.
The testimony came on the eighth day of the trial for Morgan, longtime lobbyist Andy Skeith and prominent attorney Martin Stringer.
Morgan is accused of accepting $12,000 in bribes from Crosby's
Morgan, a Democrat, also is accused of accepting $141,666 in bribes from a landfill development company and $250,000 in bribes from an energy company for political influence. Skeith and Stringer are accused of conspiring with him on behalf of those two companies. Morgan contends he was paid for legitimate legal services.
Crosby owns Silver Oak Senior Living, which operates assisted-living centers in Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska. Its main office is in Edmond. Crosby lives in Carney.
Crosby told jurors he hired a lobbyist in 2006 after the state Health Department kept “dinging” his company with fines.
He testified the lobbyist, Benny Vanatta, set up a meeting in May 2006 with Morgan at the Capitol. He said at the meeting Vanatta told him to “just spill out” what his troubles were with the Health Department.
Crosby testified he told Morgan he needed help such as phone calls, legislation or meetings “to get them off my back.”
Crosby testified at that point Vanatta stood up, said he was going to get some coffee and left the room. Crosby recalled that was when Morgan brought up the $1,000 monthly payments.
He said the company began paying Morgan by check in July 2006 and stopped in July 2007, after the legislation passed that helped assisted-living centers. He said Morgan never did any legal work for the money.
He said he had little further contact with Morgan after the first meeting at the Capitol. He said Morgan was with him at a meeting with health officials and Morgan once picked up a political donation from him for a candidate in Tulsa.
Prosecutors on Thursday put into evidence the
The bill became law after opponents lobbied legislators in the House to put in amendments addressing their concerns about resident care.
Defense attorneys say Crosby is lying about what happened because he has his own criminal case and wants leniency. They have suggested Crosby actually hired Morgan to sue the Health Department.
Morgan's lead attorney, David Ogle, told The Oklahoman, “He's trying to buy his way out of jail. He's lying.”
Crosby, who also is a rancher, has pleaded guilty in federal court in Oklahoma City to making a false statement to a bank in 2007. He told the jury he had sold mortgaged cattle. “That was a no-no,” he said.
He is awaiting sentencing by a judge.
He acknowledged Thursday that he hopes to receive leniency at his sentencing because of his cooperation. He will be questioned by Morgan's attorney when he resumes testifying Friday morning.
Morgan, 57, of Stillwater, Stringer, 71, of Oklahoma City, and Skeith, 53, of Edmond, were indicted in March. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Morgan was Senate president pro tem or co-president pro tem from March 2005 until November 2008, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron they expect to finish their case Friday. Defense attorneys will begin calling witnesses, including several state legislators, next week.