State grand jurors on Thursday cleared Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater of any wrongdoing involving a 2006 victory party, and they condemned defense attorney Irven Box for making the allegations.
“I'm relieved,” Prater said.
The multicounty grand jury did indict one person — possibly for perjury. The indictment will be made public later.
In a 25-page report, grand jurors called the accusations about Prater “unfair, untrue and unjust.”
Grand jurors recommended Prater in the future let other prosecutors handle criminal cases against anyone who made a major donation to him to avoid having unjust allegations made about his conduct.
“It may be an act of some great personal, if not political courage, for a district attorney to prosecute the very persons who were important to him or her in accomplishing election to this very important public office,” grand jurors reported.
“The grand jury, however, believes such courage is both unwise and unnecessary. ... The district attorney places himself or herself in a ‘no win' situation in regard to the important and serious decisions that must be made in the presentation of every case. Every action undertaken by the district attorney under such circumstances may be subjected to second guessing that may lead to unfortunate, untrue and unfair allegations.”
Prater, a Democrat, said he will strongly consider the grand jury's recommendation if “faced with this issue in the future.”
Prater's accusers claimed the victory party on Nov. 20, 2006, at the Cafe Nova, a swank Oklahoma City restaurant, was actually a postelection fundraiser. The accusers claimed an attorney, Lewis B. Moon, paid for the entire party — spending more than $12,000. The accusers claimed the expense was an illegal, excessive campaign donation.
The accusers alleged Prater later showed favoritism to Moon after charging Moon with being in actual physical control of a car while intoxicated.
The accusers also alleged Prater let campaign donations from two attorneys, Josh Welch and David Ogle, influence his prosecution of them in a bribery case.
Grand jurors rejected the accusations, specifically saying they identified the true sponsors of the 2006 victory party. Grand jurors reported Moon did not pay for the party. “Mr. Moon did not commit the felony crime of over-contribution to a campaign as alleged by others,” the grand jury reported.
The grand jury reported Prater's accusers obtained a false statement from the restaurant owner and created a bogus invoice to make it look like Moon paid for the party.
Grand jurors blamed — but did not directly name — Box and a now-dead attorney, Joe Brett Reynolds, for making the accusations. Box was referred to in the report as Attorney A and Reynolds as Attorney B.
Grand jurors reported Box first sent a letter about Prater to Assistant Attorney General Robert Hudson in February 2011. The grand jurors noted Box and Reynolds at the time were representing former pharmacist Jerome Ersland in a murder case. The defense attorneys were seeking to have Prater removed from the case.
Ersland later was convicted at trial of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a wounded robber inside a south Oklahoma City drugstore.
Grand jurors reported Box was involved in the preparation of the false statement about the party from the cafe owner. Grand jurors reported Reynolds and the cafe owner, Wade Starr, “were plainly the source of the bogus ‘invoice' that” Box sent to the attorney general's office.
Reynolds died in May of brain cancer.
The grand jury ended the report by criticizing the defense attorneys.
“More care to the cause of Justice is expected from legal professionals than was exercised here before making allegations as serious as these,” the report states. “Such actions should never be undertaken, as the facts suggest in this case, in order to obtain some possible advantage for a client in a pending case. Such actions by members of the criminal defense bar are plainly far below any reasonable expectations of the public in regard to anyone who should be professionally dedicated to defending other persons accused of crimes.
“This is particularly true of Attorney A, who is a former police officer and former prosecutor.”
Box, who is one of the best-known attorneys in Oklahoma City, testified Wednesday before the grand jury.
Told Thursday of the grand jury's criticism, Box said, “I think it's just a whitewash — prosecutors protecting prosecutors.”
Attorney denies role
Box denied having a role in preparing the cafe owner's statement about Moon paying for the party. He has said in the past he believes the statement is true.
The grand jury noted that Prater in May voluntarily filed an amended campaign report reflecting the party as $10,000 in in-kind contribution from five sponsors. The grand jury noted Prater also has repaid some of the sponsors.
“We believe these actions were intended by Mr. Prater (to), and should, remove even the appearance of impropriety from this celebration party. We commend Mr. Prater for voluntarily undertaking these actions,” the grand jury reported.