FAIRVIEW — In a widely criticized move, a veteran judge has sealed from public view a criminal charge filed against an Enid attorney.
District Judge Ray Dean Linder acted the same day Eric Nathan Edwards was charged with perjury, a felony.
“If it's not preferential treatment, it sure looks like it,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association.
“Judge Linder is well respected ... so it's very confusing that he would make a decision like this to just — out of the blue — make a whole case, including the case number, disappear,” Thomas said. “It leads people to think there's corruption, or something, going on.”
The charge — filed May 17 in Major County in northwest Oklahoma — remains closed to the public. The Oklahoman was told Edwards is accused of lying about what he said to another attorney in a heated divorce hearing.
Linder, 77, last week took himself off further decisions in the perjury case.
He stands by his decision, though, to seal the case. He said it needed to be done to protect the defendant's professional career. Linder, who has been a judge more than 40 years, said he doesn't remember ever sealing a criminal case before.
The judge noted an assistant prosecutor filed the charge without even informing Hollis Thorp, the district attorney over Major County.
Publicity and fairness
The judge indicated he would have made the records public again if the district attorney had decided the case was worth pursuing.
“In this instance, fairness required there be more investigation before the matter was publicized. That's the basis upon which I did it,” Linder said of sealing the case. “I wish it hadn't been necessary but, again, I feel it was necessary.”
Linder also said: “I looked at the affidavit that was on file in this case, I looked at the people that were involved and I looked at what appeared to be the motivating circumstances in the case and thought that it was best that the matter be sealed until such time as there could be a formal presentation and consideration of evidence.”
Presiding over the case now is Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck. He was appointed Thursday by the state Supreme Court's chief justice
The Major County district attorney, Thorp, also has taken himself off the case. “I have known this attorney and his family for many years and have conflicts too numerous to list in this communication,” Thorp on June 14 wrote Rob Hudson, first assistant attorney general.