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Charges against Oklahoma parole board to be dropped

All five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board signed a statement acknowledging that a long-standing procedure on early release requests appears to be in violation of the Open Meeting Act.
by Nolan Clay Published: January 29, 2014

Criminal charges are being dropped against the five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, The Oklahoman has learned.

They were accused in misdemeanor charges filed last March of illegally voting on inmates' requests for early release without proper public notice.

The charges are being dismissed because all five signed a one-page statement.

In the statement, they acknowledged a long-standing procedure on such requests appears to have been in violation of the Open Meeting Act.

“The board was acting in good faith at the time, and believed that our actions were in accordance with the law,” the statement reads. “In retrospect, the procedure did not adequately promote the goal of insuring public notice before any action was taken by the board.

“We believe that the efforts we have undertaken to improve procedures, in conjunction with recent legislation, have advanced the goals of openness and advance notice of board action,” the statement reads.

The procedure at issue had been in effect for 22 years, the statement reads.

Oklahoma City defense attorney John Coyle delivered the statement on Tuesday to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

“He's preparing dismissals,” Coyle told The Oklahoman.

Coyle confirmed the statement is part of a dismissal agreement worked out between defense attorneys and the prosecutor.

“We ... determined that the procedure ... had flaws in it, like we talked about in the letter. Those have been corrected so we've all agreed to move on to other things,” Coyle said. “We're just moving forward to try to help people.”

A trial had been scheduled for last November, but it was postponed and never reset.

Prater said Tuesday, “With the board's acknowledgment that their actions violated the Open Meeting Act, I anticipate a resolution of this matter in short order.”

Charged with 10 misdemeanor counts are board Chairman Marc Dreyer and board members Currie Ballard, Richard Dugger and Lynnell Harkins.

Charged with nine misdemeanor counts is board member David Moore.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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