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Former Oklahoma Rep. Randy Terrill found guilty of political bribery charge

Oklahoma County jurors chose a punishment of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
by Nolan Clay Modified: October 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm •  Published: October 29, 2013

Former state Rep. Randy Terrill was convicted Tuesday of a political bribery charge and immediately jailed.

The 12 jurors found the once-powerful lawmaker guilty after deliberating almost four hours. Jurors chose a punishment of one year in state prison and a $5,000 fine.

An Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy handcuffed Terrill behind his back immediately after the verdict was announced.

Deputies then led him from the courtroom to a jail elevator.

Terrill, 44, of Moore, was convicted of a felony — offering a bribe to a candidate to withdraw. The maximum possible punishment on the charge was two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Terrill showed no reaction as District Judge Cindy Truong read the verdict at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.

“It's very disappointing, and I'm confident it will be turned over on appeal,” defense attorney Chris Eulberg said afterward.

Terrill is asking to be released on bond while he appeals. Prosecutors are expected to oppose the request. The judge scheduled a hearing on the issue for Wednesday afternoon.

“We're obviously pleased with the jury's verdict,” Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger said. Formal sentencing was set for Dec. 5

Also set in December is the jury trial for a co-defendant, former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich.

Leftwich, 62, of Oklahoma City, also is charged with a felony — soliciting and/or accepting a bribe to withdraw. She has pleaded not guilty. She did not testify at Terrill's trial.

Prosecutors alleged Terrill, a Republican, offered Leftwich, a Democrat, an $80,000-a-year state job at the medical examiner's office in 2010. Prosecutors allege he bribed her so she would not run for re-election to her Senate seat that year.

“Mr. Terrill masterminded a scheme to corrupt the integrity of the political process,” Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon told jurors in closing arguments. “Their actions altered the makeup of the state Senate.”

Prosecutors alleged Terrill acted in part to help state Rep. Mike Christian, his friend. Christian, R-Oklahoma City, had planned in 2010 to run for Leftwich's seat, but ran for re-election to his House seat instead.

Terrill's testimony

In defiant testimony Tuesday morning, Terrill denied offering Leftwich a bribe to withdraw her candidacy.

“Did you do that?” his defense attorney asked.

“Absolutely not,” Terrill said.

Terrill was the final witness. He testified for two hours.

After testifying, he complained to news reporters that prosecutors had put the legislative process itself on trial.

“This prosecution has done more damage to our political system than anything that I can think of in recent history,” Terrill said.

In 2010, Terrill was chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee that oversaw the medical examiner's office.

Terrill had the language creating the new position — a transition coordinator — inserted into a reform bill nine days before the legislative session ended, according to prosecution testimony.

One key witness for the prosecution was Cherokee Ballard, a well-known former television reporter who worked for about three years at the medical examiner's office as a legislative liaison and spokeswoman.

The second key witness was Tom Jordan, the former chief administrative officer at the medical examiner's office.

Both testified Terrill pressured Jordan to hire Leftwich to the transition coordinator job.

“We felt like we didn't have a choice,” Ballard said of a May 17, 2010, meeting with Terrill at the Capitol.

Terrill on Tuesday denied pressuring anyone. He said both key witnesses were confused or didn't remember the meetings correctly.

Terrill testified he never discussed with Leftwich if she wanted the job. He said she wasn't his first choice for the position.

“I don't know that she was ever my choice,” he said.

He testified he never promised Leftwich anything. He insisted he never did anything to discourage Leftwich to not run for re-election in 2010. And, he said, he was not involved in any way in Christian's aborted Senate campaign in any way.

“I didn't have a dog in that fight,” he said.

He also said he didn't have the authority while a legislator to offer anyone a job, not even his own legislative assistant.

Terrill arranged for the transition coordinator position to be paid the first year out of a fund from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, according to prosecution testimony. Terrill was the author of the bill that created the fund.

One prosecution witness, state Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond, testified last week that Terrill said with a smile that “he had his own private slush fund” when she asked where the money was coming from for the job.

Terrill on Tuesday denied ever saying that.

“I'm saying it didn't happen,” he testified.

He said he had no memory of telling Christian to keep his mouth shut after Christian had been to an end-of-session party in May 2010.

Christian last week told jurors Terrill admonished him for talking at the party about speculation Leftwich was going to work at the medical examiner's office.

Leftwich announced May 28, 2010, the last day of the legislative session, that she would not run for re-election. The reform bill creating the new job and the bill funding the position were vetoed June 6, 2010.

Defense witnesses

Jurors heard from eight defense witnesses in all. They heard from 20 prosecution witnesses last week.

In closing arguments, Terrill's attorney called the prosecutors' case “illusions.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot convict on rumors,” Eulberg said.

A key issue on appeal will be whether Leftwich actually was a candidate for the Senate in 2010. The judge ruled she was because she was accepting campaign contributions for a 2010 race. Terrill contended Leftwich was never a Senate candidate in 2010 because she never filed paperwork at the state Election Board.

“If you don't enter a political contest, you can't withdraw from one,” Terrill testified Tuesday.

Terrill was re-elected to the House in 2010 but did not run again in 2012 after being charged. He ran instead for Cleveland County commissioner but lost.

“These allegations pretty well destroyed my political career,” he told jurors Tuesday.

Jurors learned Monday that Terrill in 2011 was reprimanded by the House after he reportedly called then-House Speaker Kris Steele a “retard” and talked of breaking the speaker's leg.

Jurors learned Tuesday that a federal bankruptcy judge in 2008 ordered Terrill to pay $11,301 for failing to disclose loans to his campaign as an asset.

Prosecutors brought out the information to counter the testimony of several witnesses that Terrill is an honorable man.

>>Read Day 1: Testimony begins in former Oklahoma legislator's bribery trial (Published Oct. 22, 2013)

>>Read Day 2: Former Oklahoma governor testifies for prosecution at political bribery trial (Published Oct. 23, 2013)

>>Read Day 3: Witness says Terrill put state job into legislation in Oklahoma political bribery trial (Published Oct. 25, 2013)

>>Read Day 4: Judge sends jurors in political bribery trial home early Friday (Published Oct. 26, 2013)

>>Read: Jurors at political bribery trial see negative side of Oklahoma Legislature (Published Oct. 26, 2013)

>>Read Day 5: Jury to begin deliberations in Oklahoma political bribery trial (Published Oct. 28, 2013)

Ongoing Coverage: Trial and investigation
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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