Former Senate leader Mike Morgan was under FBI investigation for years before his indictment Wednesday in a public corruption case, a federal prosecutor and Morgan's defense attorney say.
“This investigation has been ongoing for a number of years,” U.S. Attorney Sandy Coats said Thursday at a news conference in Oklahoma City.
Morgan, 56, is a Stillwater attorney who left the Senate in 2008.
Morgan, Edmond lobbyist William Andrew Skeith, 52, and Oklahoma City attorney N. Martin Stringer, 70, are charged with conspiracy, extortion and mail fraud. Morgan also is charged with bribery.
All three deny wrongdoing. They will make their first court appearances next week. The trial could be later this year, the prosecutor and Morgan's attorney said.
Coats said, “The crimes charged in this case go to the heart of our republic and how our system of government operates. When elected officials decide public policy based upon secret payments, they are abandoning this country's core principle that government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Defense claims that the indictment is politically motivated were called absurd by the prosecutor. Asked if the FBI probe is over, Coats said, “The indictment is not the end of the investigation in most cases.”
About the allegations
The grand jury alleges Morgan was illegally paid more than $400,000 by three companies for favorable treatment in the Legislature and with state officials. The grand jury said the payments were disguised.
Morgan's attorney, David Ogle, said the FBI inquiry has lasted at least four years. He said FBI agents searched Morgan's Stillwater law office in November 2009.
Ogle said, “The government takes the position that he didn't do any legal work. It's just not true. It's wrong. … There was significant litigation that he assisted in, and significant documents reviewed and opinions given.”
Federal prosecutors agreed in 2009 not to charge one company owner, Sam Crosby, for paying Morgan $12,000, Crosby's attorney said. “I thought it was important to get that agreement to protect him,” the attorney, John W. Coyle said.
Crosby owned a company that operated assisted-living centers. Grand jurors alleged Morgan told the owner that if the company wanted his help in dealing with the state Health Department, “it would have to hire him as a lawyer and pay him a retainer of $1,000 per month.” Morgan later authored a bill that addressed many of the company's concerns, the grand jury said.