A jury trial has been scheduled for Nov. 18 for the five Pardon and Parole Board members.
All five are accused of violating the Open Meeting Act when they first voted on early release requests.
The board acted in a way “designed to hide potentially unpopular actions ... from the citizens it serves,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said in a news release after filing the charges in March.
Charged with 10 misdemeanor counts are board Chairman Marc Dreyer and board members Currie Ballard, Richard Dugger and Lynnell Harkins. Charged with nine misdemeanor counts is board member David Moore.
They have denied that they ever knowingly or willfully violated the law.
Defense attorneys are asking Special Judge Roma McElwee to dismiss the cases or disqualify Prater from prosecuting them. The district attorney is contesting the requests.
Defense attorneys contend Prater is prosecuting the board members because he was angry over their decision to consider early release for Maelene Chambers, a woman convicted of first-degree manslaughter in a drunken-driving death.
“This highly publicized prosecution arises for one reason and one reason only: Vindictiveness,” defense attorneys told the judge in a legal filing.
“Because of his disagreement with the law and his personal bias, he ordered the board members to resign or be prosecuted. His actions are nothing short of blackmail. When the board refused to resign, Mr. Prater made good on this threat and filed charges. In doing so, he clearly initiated a vindictive prosecution against the board members who refused to bend to his will,” defense attorneys wrote.
If the cases are not dismissed, the judge also must decide whether the five board members will have separate trials or be tried together.