Former Oklahoma judge defends early prison release request
Former Oklahoma County Judge Leamon Freeman confirmed Thursday that he asked a Pardon and Parole Board member to recommend the early release of inmate Maelene Chambers but contends everything was done properly and above board.
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Freeman said he became aware of Chambers case through “a dear friend of mine and my wife who knew the Chambers family and kept talking about it.”
The attorney said when he looked into Chambers case, he found that she has been a “model prisoner” who has started programs to assist other inmates and regularly receives top scores for her behavior from the prison system.
Freeman said he has been advocating for her early release ever since, including contacting parole board member Richard Dugger, who made the request that Chambers be given early release consideration. Freeman said he has known Dugger since law school, but they “don't socialize.”
“I'm doing it for free. I'm paid nothing for this,” Freeman said of his assistance to Chambers. “She's a woman who no longer needs to be in prison and I believe in rehabilitation and redemption.”
Disagreeing with Freeman's description of Chambers is Betty Sharp, whose husband was killed in Chambers' drunk-driving accident.
“It blows my mind that any politician would listen to some scumbag in jail,” Sharp said of Chambers' campaign for early release. “She has lived a reckless life ... She doesn't think the rules apply to her.”
“Not only did she kill my husband, but I have suffered enormous physical pain,” she said. “I've had four surgeries since the wreck.”
Sharp said her family members were surprised and upset when they received notification through the victim's information system that Chambers was up for early release consideration, something they didn't expect before 2016.
Prater said he started an inquiry into the parole board's early release practices after being contacted by the Sharp family on July 19.
Freeman said Prater should not have been caught off guard by Chambers' early release consideration. Freeman said he tried repeatedly in early June to make an appointment with Prater to discuss the Chambers case but Prater refused to meet with him.
Prater acknowledged refusing to talk with Freeman.
“Frankly, her family has tried to get many people in the community to call me to ask me to do things on her case,” Prater said. “I've had numerous people call me and try to influence me into offering her some leniency from her sentence and I wasn't going to do that. I would never do that for this defendant.”
Prater said he is unimpressed with the requests for help because of the “crime she committed and lack of remorse.”
“She has no remorse. It's all been about her,” Prater said.
Chambers, who has been an outspoken advocate for changes in the 85 percent law, said in a 2009 interview that she does feel remorse.
“The remorse and the guilt and the sorrow never leaves,” she said during that interview.
Prater said he has received telephone calls from victims throughout the state who have given him names of former inmates they believe were released before they should have been.
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