Possibly dozens of drunken-driving suspects were never charged because highway patrol troopers failed to turn in paperwork to prosecutors, The Oklahoman has learned.
Oklahoma County prosecutors uncovered the problem themselves, and they have begun filing charges against those suspects months after their arrests.
The latest to be charged is legislative candidate John Paul Gibbons, who was arrested in Oklahoma City on June 15, 2012.
Gibbons, 51, of Oklahoma City, is one of four Democrats seeking the open District 88 seat in the state House of Representatives.
He was charged Monday with driving under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor.
Gibbons said he had had only one beer and was not drunk when he was arrested in 2012. He vowed Monday to stay in the race despite being charged.
“I got into this race for what I believe is the correct reasons. And I’m going to continue it, and I’m going to complete it,” he said.
The chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Monday he has opened an inquiry to identify what happened in Oklahoma County.
“I’ve also asked my deputy chiefs to look at this incident to see if it’s just isolated to the one area or if ... potentially we’ve got some problems statewide,” Col. Ricky Adams said.
The chief acknowledged he is embarrassed.
“Absolutely,” Adams said. “Any law enforcement officer, you know that any arrest you make is not complete until you follow it up with the proper paperwork and you have properly prosecuted that case.
“For whatever reason that this occurred — whether it’s administrative or otherwise — it should not have. Our agency is taking it very seriously. ... We are very proud of the quality of arrests and things we put out. If I got a problem in one of my areas, it’s going to be dealt with.”
District Attorney David Prater said Monday the highway patrol chief and the current Troop A command “inherited the problem.” The district attorney also said he is confident Adams will address the situation appropriately.
“We’re working with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to identify cases where an arrest was made ... and the case was never brought to the Oklahoma County DA’s office for charging consideration,” Prater said. “I anticipate there will be dozens of cases.”
The trooper who arrested Gibbons in 2012 normally works in Lincoln County and was doing an overtime DUI shift in Oklahoma County, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Friday.
The trooper did write out an arrest affidavit that was filed with the Oklahoma County court clerk, records show. The affidavit showed Gibbons refused to take a breath test.
The trooper, Ron Sites, “thought he had done everything — like they do in his county — but that’s not how they do it in Oklahoma County,” said the spokeswoman, Lt. Betsy Randolph.
In Oklahoma County, the procedure is for a law enforcement agency to deliver an investigative packet to prosecutors who then decide if charges are warranted, officials said.
Not all the problem, though, can be blamed on troopers unfamiliar with Oklahoma County’s procedure.
One trooper who regularly patrols Oklahoma County made a number of arrests last year where no one was ever charged, a review of arrest affidavits shows. Some of those arrests date back to January 2013.
The trooper, Gary Hightower, could not be reached for comment. The patrol chief, Adams, said he “would not confirm or deny what ... troopers might be involved in this.”
In Oklahoma, a drunken-driving charge can be filed up to three years after an arrest.
Democrats in House race
Four Oklahoma City Democrats are the only candidates for the District 88 seat to the state House of Representatives.
•John Paul Gibbons, 51, is co-owner of The Boom, an Oklahoma City dinner club and theater. He was president of a mortgage company that he shut down in 2010 during the nationwide financial crisis.
•Paula Sophia, 48, is a transgender Oklahoma City police officer who retired from the department May 1 to run for office.
•Mark Faulk, 58, is a writer, filmmaker and political activist.
•Jason Dunnington, 36, is a visiting sociology professor at Oklahoma City University and a former pastor.