Two key witnesses in a political bribery case testified Monday state Rep. Randy Terrill told them, “This is dead man's talk,” before recommending Debbe Leftwich, then a state senator, for a state job.
The testimony came on the first day of the preliminary hearing for Terrill, known for his strong stance against illegal immigration, and Leftwich.
“I felt like we were being told we were going to have to do this whether it was the best thing for the agency or not,” said the first key witness, Cherokee Ballard, the legislative liaison and public information officer at the state medical examiner's office.
“I felt like we were being told what to do,” she said of the May 17, 2010, meeting at the state Capitol.
The second key witness, Tom Jordan, then the medical examiner's chief administrative officer, testified he “absolutely” felt pressured to hire Leftwich at a second meeting with Terrill on June 2, 2010, at a Moore diner.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Stephen Alcorn has set aside four days this week for the preliminary hearing. He must decide if the evidence is sufficient for a bribery trial.
Both deny doing anything wrong.
Terrill, 42, is accused of offering Leftwich a bribe — an $80,000-a-year medical examiner's job — to not run last year for re-election. Prosecutors allege he acted so his friend, state Rep. Mike Christian, could seek her Senate seat.
Leftwich, 60, is accused in a separate felony count of soliciting and/or accepting a bribe.
Upcoming witnesses are expected to testify Terrill, R-Moore, was the legislator who had the position — a transition coordinator — added to a reform bill. The bill required the medical examiner's chief administrative officer to make the hire.
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, never got the job. Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the reform bill on June 6, 2010, after the district attorney announced an investigation.
Christian, a Republican, dropped plans to run for the Senate. Christian then won re-election to his south Oklahoma City House seat.
Both key witnesses testified Monday Terrill shut the door to his Capitol office in May 2010 before discussing putting Leftwich in the job.
Both testified Terrill at that Capitol meeting came up with how much to pay Leftwich by quizzing them about their salaries. Ballard made $70,000 and Jordan made $90,000 and Terrill said Leftwich would be paid in between, according to the testimony.Ongoing coverage: Political Corruption Investigation