An Oklahoma County judge who has sentenced hundreds of criminals saw the justice system from the other side Monday.
District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure, 43, and husband Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, surrendered at the Oklahoma County jail in a felony fraud case so they would not be arrested. There, they were fingerprinted and photographed.
The judge smiled broadly for her mug shot.
They then went to the courthouse for a quick arraignment. Special Judge Russell Hall entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. They remain free on personal recognizance bonds. A conference in the case was set for March 31.
Prosecutors allege the judge and her husband secretly gave away twins placed in their care. They allege the judge spent on herself some of the $22,000 in state funds paid to her for the children's care.
An investigation found that the judge and her husband signed up in January 2008 to be foster parents of the boy and girl then adopted them last May. Prosecutors allege the judge actually was letting her bailiff's sister raise the children.
Prosecutors allege the judge used adoption subsidies last year to make purchases at spas, nail salons and casinos. Investigators have records of the purchases because the judge has a DHS debit card.
The judge was charged Friday with 30 counts of making a fraudulent claim against the state and two counts of perjury. Her husband was charged with two counts of making a fraudulent claim against the state and two counts of perjury.
The judge's attorney, Richard Anderson, told reporters outside the jail that she is “a strong, courageous, compassionate” woman and judge. He said she maintains that she is “100 percent innocent.”
Karlos LeSure's attorney, Michael S. Johnson, said in a statement Monday that he, too, is innocent. Johnson also said, “This matter must be tried in the courtroom and not in the media.”
Bass-LeSure was elected a district judge 12 years ago and has spent much of her career handling criminal cases. At the start of this month, she began handling probate, guardianship and adoption cases. She is staying away from the courthouse the rest of this week at the request of Oklahoma County's presiding judge, The Oklahoman was told.
The children, now 3, were taken Friday night by an attorney to Oklahoma County juvenile shelter.
The bailiff's sister, Ravonda Latrice Edwards, 40, was charged Monday with first-
Prosecutors said they learned of the allegations against the judge from Oklahoma City Fire Department arson investigators.
Edwards is accused in the felony arson charge of burning a woman's clothes and mattress June 4 after the woman sought a protective order against her. The woman, Tiffany Henley, told a judge she and Edwards dated.
Edwards also is facing a separate felony assault charge for allegedly trying to stab Henley on May 21. Edwards also is accused of kidnapping Henley's young daughter. Henley told a judge, “She physically assaulted me and attempted to stab me with a knife saying she was going to kill me because I won't be in a relationship with her again. She slashed my tires and grabbed my child while she had knife in hand as leverage for me to come to her.”
Edwards could not be located for comment Monday. Her attorney last week withdrew from representing her further.
Edwards was a child-welfare worker for the Department of Human Services from June 2005 to January 2010. She would not have been eligible to be a foster parent herself for a child if she was directly assigned to the child's case.
The children were put into DHS custody at birth because their mother was a cocaine user, investigators reported. The mother, Kapri Whitehead, 27, said in television interviews Saturday she is better now and plans to see if she can get the twins back.