Jury to hear closing arguments in the political corruption trial for former leader of the Oklahoma Senate

Former Senate president pro tem Mike Morgan is accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from three companies for his political influence. On trial with him is Martin Stringer, a prominent Oklahoma City attorney. Stringer is accused of wrongdoing involving one of the companies.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Published: March 1, 2012

Jurors are to hear closing arguments Thursday morning in the political corruption trial for former state Senate leader Mike Morgan and prominent Oklahoma City attorney Martin Stringer.

The jury of 11 women and one man could begin deliberations early Thursday afternoon.

Stringer, 71, was the final witness, testifying Wednesday in his own defense that he didn't do anything wrong.

“I wouldn't risk a 48-year career on what I've been accused of,” he told jurors at the federal trial in Oklahoma City.

Morgan, a Democrat, is accused of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes from three companies while he was in the state Senate. Prosecutors allege he was paid for his political influence. Morgan, 57, a Stillwater attorney, told jurors Tuesday he was paid for legal work. “I never sold my seat,” he said.

Alleged involvement

Stringer is accused of involvement in a conspiracy to force the owners of one of the companies to pay Morgan $50,000 a year in bribes.

The company, Dilworth Development Co., was seeking a permit to build a landfill in northern Oklahoma. Owners faced strong local opposition, particularly from the commissioners in Kay County.

Stringer told the jury he agreed to help the owners at the urging of his son-in-law, who was an engineer on the project. He testified he recommended in 2005 that the owners hire Morgan for “muscle” to negotiate a settlement with opponents of the project. He said other attorneys had been ineffective and one attorney had received a death threat.

“We needed to change our game plan because we weren't getting anywhere,” Stringer said. “We could not get this case settled. I needed a new player on the block.”

He disputed earlier testimony by three owners that they were told to hire Morgan so the senator could stop any bill at the Capitol that might derail their project. The owners told jurors they met Morgan at Stringer's law firm on June 28, 2005. They said they were told Morgan already had stopped a bill that would have made their landfill development “dead in the water.”

“Martin Stringer, he said we needed him,” one owner, Edith Denton, testified Feb. 14. “It was to watch our back.”

Stringer testified Wednesday, “They're either lying or they're confused because it never happened.”

He said there was discussion with the company's owners at the June 28, 2005, meeting that a lobbyist, Andy Skeith, could watch their “backside.”

“Was there any comment about ‘watching your backside' as it pertained to Mike Morgan?” his lead defense attorney, Drew Neville, asked.

“No,” Stringer said.

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