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College football: What it's like to be a district attorney in a college town

Greg Mashburn’s job is a little different from most prosecutors. He’s the DA in a college football town. When a football or basketball player gets in trouble, his job is thrust quickly under the microscope — like with the Joe Mixon affair.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 23, 2014

“I can say that for 100 percent certainty, those guys have never called me before I ever made a decision, in any case,” Mashburn said. “We’ve had football players get in trouble, over eight years, I never get phone calls from ’em. They say, ‘We won’t call you. You do your job, and that’s it.’ That’s been definitely true.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. That allows me the flexibility to do my job.”

Mashburn said the trio came Monday just wanting to know what the investigation revealed. Mashburn filled them in, they asked to see the much-discussed video tape and Mashburn complied.

“They asked a few question, they said, ‘we need to go do our job now,’ then they left,” Mashburn said.

Mashburn, 42, grew up in Idabel and graduated from OU’s law school. He admits the public scrutiny on a case like Mixon’s grows old.

“You’d be lying if you said it doesn’t grind on you a little bit,” Mashburn said. “But time and time again, it comes down to, what would I do in a regular case? What would I do if it was a couple of students? What would I do if it was an 18-year-old and 20-year-old?” and one of them wasn’t a five-star football recruit.

“Certainly you know it’s going to be under a microscope. But I do think I’m still able to make the decision I would have made in every other case.”

Lee, who plans to retire and is not running for reelection, grew up in Yale, about 20 miles from Stillwater, and went to Oklahoma City University’s law school. Lee said another problem in a college town is that sometimes half the residents know about something by the time he does.

“The problem comes when it hits the news before we even come to work and get the case,” Lee said. “Probably moreso in Stillwater than Norman, but it spreads like a wildfire even in Norman. We’re not a small town, but everybody pretty much knows what’s going on up here, and if an athlete’s arrested, it doesn’t take very long before it’s all over town.”

All over town, and everyone has an opinion.

Eight years on the job, and Mashburn said the public response on the Mixon case still amazes him. Amazes his wife, too, a Norman teacher, who is constantly stopped by people wanting to know what’s going on.

Mashburn’s wife likes to tell the curious, “Do you realize what he does on a daily basis?”

Despite the scrutiny, Mashburn said he doesn’t rethink his career in any way. He’s still running for reelection.

“I still very much love my job and the impact I can have on a community,” Mashburn said. “I’ve always said as long as I’m good with my friends and family, people I care about, I’m good. I have a great staff. Twenty-seven district attorneys. As long as we’re all good, can do our job, then I’m happy.”

But doing that job is more difficult in a college football town.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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