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Denver appeals court hears arguments in case of former Oklahoma Senate leader convicted of bribery

Former Oklahoma Senate leader Mike Morgan was sentenced to five years of probations; prosecutors want a “substantial period” in prison.
By Robert Boczkiewicz Modified: January 22, 2014 at 8:18 pm •  Published: January 23, 2014

— Neither side is satisfied with the outcome of the 2012 conviction of former Oklahoma State Senate leader Mike Morgan for bribery.

Morgan is asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn his conviction.

Prosecutors want the court to order the trial judge, Robin Cauthron of the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, to put Morgan in prison for a “substantial period,” rather than the sentence of probation she imposed.

Both sides argued their positions Wednesday at the Denver-based appeals court.

Morgan, leaning forward in a front-row seat, listened intently. Afterward, he said on advice of counsel he could not say anything.

Judges asked attorneys on both sides many questions, but did not indicate how they might rule.

“We couldn't order him sent to prison, only that you (Cauthron) go back and give him another sentencing,” appellate judge Jerome Holmes told the prosecutor, Scott Williams.

Holmes, a former federal prosecutor and defense attorney in Oklahoma City, said the appellate judges have the option of telling Cauthron to reconsider the sentence on grounds that it was not reasonable, based on the case record.

A jury found Morgan, a Democrat, guilty of accepting $12,000 in bribes in 2006 and 2007 to influence legislation that would benefit the assisted-living industry and specifically the owner of one group of living facilities.

Prosecutors contend the money was disguised as attorney fees, but was corrupt payments.

Morgan, an attorney and Senate co-president pro tem in 2007, testified at his trial that the money was payment from the owner of Silver Oak Living Centers for legal work.

Silver Oak, based in Edmond, was in bitter disputes with state regulators. Morgan previously had served as an attorney for health care facilities.

All of the communication to Morgan by the facility's management indicated Morgan was hired “as a lawyer — not a senator,” his attorneys, in earlier written arguments, told the appellate judges. “There was no corrupt agreement or quid pro quo and accordingly there was insufficient evidence to convict.”

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