© Copyright 2013, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Ed Shadid sought to keep possible criminal wrongdoing from coming out in his divorce by invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, The Oklahoman has learned.
He's not saying why.
Shadid invoked the constitutional privilege in 2006 after hiring Josh Welch, at the time a prominent criminal defense attorney.
After granting a divorce in 2007, a judge sealed from public view Shadid's reasons for invoking the Fifth Amendment as well as dozens of other records. The judge sealed the records at Shadid's and his ex-wife's request.
The divorce decree itself remained open.
Shadid now is fighting at the Oklahoma Supreme Court to keep the sealed records secret. He went to the Supreme Court after his divorce judge indicated she likely would unseal the records since he is a mayoral candidate.
Three Oklahoma County judges who have handled divorce cases told The Oklahoman it is extremely rare for someone in a divorce proceeding to invoke the Fifth Amendment. It is most commonly seen in criminal cases and is often referred to as “taking the Fifth.”
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.
Shadid is running against Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who also is divorced. All the records in Cornett's 2010 divorce case are open to the public, records show.
Most divorce cases in Oklahoma are open to the public.
“Our whole system is based on the public's right to know. They are the public's records. It's the exception when court records are ordered sealed,” Oklahoma County Court Clerk Tim Rhodes said Friday.
Shadid is opposing the release of his divorce records at the same time he is promising voters in a campaign letter that he will stand strong for “absolute transparency and accountability in government” if elected mayor next year.
The election is March 4.
Shadid, 45, is a spinal surgeon and a Ward 2 city councilman. He kicked off his campaign for mayor with a rally in August. The Oklahoman in September asked his divorce judge to make public the sealed documents.
“We are seeking to open this record to determine why a mayoral candidate invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege to protect himself from self-incrimination and is fighting disclosure all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman and vice president of news for OPUBCO Communications Group.
“We support openness in public records and disagree that a divorce record should be kept secret especially in light of his seeking office as the mayor of Oklahoma City,” Fry said.
Shadid would not agree to an interview last week with The Oklahoman. He referred a reporter to Robert E. Norman, the attorney he hired to oppose release of the divorce files.
Norman did not answer questions emailed to him by a reporter, saying in an email he would only speak with The Oklahoman's attorney.
While the divorce was pending, Shadid was dealing with substance abuse, according to his file at the state medical licensure board.
In a campaign speech last month, Shadid said he “had developed an addiction to marijuana for many years” but got into long-term recovery.
Shadid became a doctor in Oklahoma in 2001 and has had his medical license renewed every year.
Doctors must answer a series of questions on their license renewal applications. The answers cover the time since a doctor's last license renewal.
Shadid answered, “Yes,” in May 2005 and May 2006 to the question: “Have you been addicted to or abused any drug or chemical substance including alcohol?”
He also answered, “Yes,” in May 2005 and May 2006 to the question: “Have you obtained an assessment or been treated for use of any drug or chemical substance including alcohol?”
In May 2005, he answered, “Yes,” to the question: “Have you had any mental, emotional or nervous disorder or condition which could affect, or if untreated could affect, your ability to practice competently?”
Even though most records in his divorce case are sealed, an online list of every legal filing briefly describes them, even the sealed ones.
A legal filing on Jan. 4, 2006, is described online as Shadid's “assertion of Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination” relating to disclosure of records from the Talbott Recovery Center and a psychiatrist, Siavash Nael.
Welch, who represented him at the time, declined last week to comment. Welch is no longer an attorney.
The online list shows on April 26, 2006, Shadid's then wife filed an application for a court order “authorizing disclosure and use of alcohol and drug abuse patient records.”
The Oklahoman learned about Shadid's sealed divorce records during an ongoing investigation into judicial secrecy.