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Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board accused of secretly expediting release of ineligible inmates

by Randy Ellis Modified: August 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm •  Published: August 8, 2012

/articleid/3699192/1/pictures/1796450">Photo - Ben W. Jones Jr.
Ben W. Jones Jr.

• Daniel G. Liles, 52, who was sentenced to life in prison for a 1982 south Oklahoma City stabbing death and five more years for damaging the state penitentiary in McAlester during a 1985 prison riot. He was paroled and released in March 2011.

• Pedro Huerta, 43, who was serving time out of Oklahoma and Cleveland counties for lewd acts with a child and lewd molestation. He remains incarcerated.

• Rocky McKinley, 51, who is serving time out of Grady County for lewd or indecent proposals or acts to a child and showing obscene material to a child. He remains incarcerated.

• Jack Logsdon, 66, who is serving a 23-year sentence out of Logan County for swindling Wichita State University baseball coach Gene Stephenson and several prominent Guthrie residents out of more than $900,000 through a series of fraudulent cattle, land and business investments. He remains incarcerated.

Also on the list was Patricia Spottedcrow, whose case prompted cries for sentencing reform after it was publicized that she had received a 12-year sentence for selling $31 of marijuana to a police informant. Fallin agreed to her early release in July, with the stipulation that she complete 120 days at a community-level correctional facility.

Prater said he first became aware that something was amiss on July 19 when he received a call from the family of a man who was killed by Maelene Chambers, of Edmond, in a 2006 drunken-driving accident in northwest Oklahoma City.

Chambers was convicted of first-degree manslaughter on March 4, 2008, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, with the final 15 years suspended.

Prater said the family member of the drunken driving victim had received an automated call from the state's victim information system stating that Chambers was up for parole, but Prater said he knew that shouldn't be happening because Chambers was sentenced under the law that requires her to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence.

Secret docket?

An inquiry revealed that parole board members had been operating a secret parole docket, called a “pre-docket investigation,” Prater said. Board members could ask that an inmate be placed on that docket and the inmate would be considered for early release if three board members voted for it, he said.

“Inmates are placed on these dockets notwithstanding statutory prohibitions on their parole consideration due to mandatory minimum sentences,” Prater stated.

He said attorneys in his office were unaware of the dockets and were not informed when inmates convicted out of Oklahoma County were placed on those dockets to be considered for early release.

Further investigation revealed that parole board member Richard Dugger had made the request that Chambers be given early parole consideration, Prater said.

Prater said when he called Dugger, Dugger told him “the board had the power to consider anyone they want.”

He said Dugger went on to say that Leamon Freeman, a retired Oklahoma County judge, had contacted him and requested that Chambers be considered for early release. Freeman and Dugger were described as law school classmates and friends.

Revelation of the secret parole docket could destroy public confidence in the Pardon and Parole Board at a critical time. Oklahomans are scheduled to vote Nov. 6 on a proposal to remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders.

Steele's criticism

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, issued a news release Wednesday criticizing the parole board for its hidden actions.

“Our criminal justice system has zero tolerance for even the appearance of playing fast and loose with sentencing laws,” Steele said. “For this board especially, anything less than following the absolute letter of the law in the most transparent manner possible is entirely unacceptable. I applaud District Attorney Prater's efforts.”

Steele said Prater informed him of the issue last month. Steele said he contacted Dugger to ask that Chambers be removed from the parole docket, because she was ineligible, but was “brushed off by the board.”

“I made a reasonable request to Mr. Dugger to simply follow the law, but he declined and said he'd do as he pleased,” Steele said.

“The effectiveness of this board requires conscientious actions by board members who are committed to following the letter of the law and acting in the best interest of public safety. Avoiding problems like this is one of the reasons the Legislature has put stricter qualifications on the next round of Pardon and Parole Board members. It is critical that the public has full confidence in the important work done by this board. My hope is that these actions are immediately ceased and remedied so the board can begin a new day.”

The five-member Pardon and Parole Board is an independent, constitutional panel. Board members are appointed, three by the governor, one by the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and one by the presiding judge of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The board is responsible for making clemency recommendations to the governor concerning convicted adult felons.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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