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Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members reject prosecution deal

All five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board insist they have not done anything wrong.
BY NOLAN CLAY nclay@opubco.com Modified: February 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

Chambers went to prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter for a drunken-driving death. She was not yet eligible for parole but the parole board was being asked to recommend to the governor that her prison time be commuted. Her request was put on hold after Prater complained.

Complaints raised

Other prosecutors have made similar complaints. In December, McIntosh County District Attorney Rob Barris complained to the parole board that prosecutors in 2010 learned of a killer's commutation request from the media, after the request had made it to the governor.

The parole board's chairman, Dreyer, said the board acted immediately and unanimously to seek out ways to address Prater's concerns when he first raised them last summer.

Dreyer said: “We have made changes in our procedures, are revamping our dockets and our website, all to make everything we do as open and transparent as we possibly can and as easy as is possible for district attorneys, victims, supporters, legislators and any interested citizen.”

He also said: “If there are ways we can and should do it better, we have proven repeatedly we are open to hear those suggestions and welcome those who constructively want the parole process in Oklahoma (to) operate at its best. It hasn't and won't take pressure or threat to make it happen.”

Dreyer called Prater “a man of integrity.” Ballard, though, said that Prater is going after the board members not because the prosecutor really thinks they broke the law but because he is anti-parole.

“That's what I feel,” Ballard said Friday.

Ballard said Christian compassion guides his votes on the parole board.

Prater on Wednesday declined to discuss his offer. He could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon or evening.

“The rules of professional conduct do not allow me to discuss proposed plea agreements,” Prater said Wednesday.

Prater also wanted the longtime executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board to step down. The executive director, Terry Jenks, already had been planning to retire.

The board's attorney, Martin, told Prater Friday that the executive director intends to retire in mid-February.

Jenks is a full-time state employee. The board members are not, although they often work hundreds of hours each month at home reviewing paperwork on inmates coming up for parole.

Meanwhile, the attorney general's office still is conducting a separate investigation of the parole board.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt told The Oklahoman in September: “The investigations are similar in the sense that they are focused upon whether the Pardon and Parole Board has engaged in practices that are inconsistent with the Open Meeting or Open Records laws.”

Pruitt also said: “I think the district attorney has focused his efforts on criminal prosecution around the Open Meeting and Open Records law, but we've not qualified it that way. ... We're just engaging in an investigation and we'll see what it yields. We'll make an informed decision at the end of that process.”


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