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Former judge in Kelsey Smith-Briggs case indicted by Oklahoma grand jury

Craig S. Key is accused in three state indictments of embezzling from clients and stealing cattle.
by Nolan Clay Modified: April 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm •  Published: April 19, 2013

The former judge who made a fateful decision in the Kelsey Smith-Briggs case has been charged with embezzling from clients and stealing cattle.

The state's multicounty grand jury on Thursday issued three indictments against Craig S. Key.

Key, 47, is an attorney in Chandler. The grand jury's investigation into his dealings with clients is ongoing. Investigators in March searched his law office.

Grand jurors alleged in one indictment that Key and two other men stole 13 head of cattle and a trailer in September from a Cushing man. Grand jurors alleged in the other indictments that he embezzled $57,238 from one injured client in 2010 and $14,345 from another injured client in 2011.

He was supposed to use the embezzled funds to pay his clients' medical bills but used the money for other purposes, grand jurors alleged.

His attorney, Cheryl Ramsey, of Stillwater, said, “We're very disappointed Mr. Key was indicted by the grand jury. The grand jury only heard one side. We will fight this in court.”

Death led to reforms

Kelsey was the 2-year-old abused girl who died in 2005. Her homicide was one of the first to focus widespread public attention on problems in Oklahoma's child welfare system.

Later child deaths and a federal class-action lawsuit eventually led to major reforms at the state Department of Human Services.

Key is a former Lincoln County associate district judge. He lost re-election in 2006 because of the criticism of his handling of Kelsey's case.

Kelsey died on Oct. 11, 2005, at her Meeker home. She had suffered repeated injuries in the year before her death.

Key was criticized because he had returned Kelsey to her mother four months before her death. He did so even though the mother was suspected of abusing her and DHS advised against it.

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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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