Plea in McAlester girl's rape draws fire

SONYA COLBERG Modified: June 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm •  Published: June 11, 2009
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McALESTER — Some state House members are trying to oust the judge who approved a one-year prison sentence for a man convicted of child rape. The representatives have written a resolution citing "gross neglect of duty.”

David Harold Earls, 64, was sentenced to a year in prison, with 19 years suspended, for rape and forcible sodomy of a 4-year-old girl in Pittsburg County. Earls pleaded no contest May 13, an agreement reached by prosecutors and the defense attorney.

"We’ve had calls from constituents and families that live in that area that are very upset about the one-year sentence and forcing the ... child that was raped to appear in court,” Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said Wednesday.

The resolution, co-authored with Rep. Mike Reynolds, is dated Feb. 2, 2010, after the next legislative session opens.

"I’m surprised,” said Judge Thomas Bartheld, when told about removal efforts. "I followed the law. I took a plea agreement. The district attorney, child’s family, advocates and defendant all agreed to this, and I took the plea.”

Bartheld, who has been a judge since 1995, said the code of judicial conduct prevents him from talking extensively about the issue.

Gov. Brad Henry’s spokesman Paul Sund released a statement.

"Typically, complaints about such public officials are addressed by specific oversight entities, such as the Council on Judicial Complaints,” he wrote.

"Oklahoma voters have the final say on the matter because district judges and district attorneys are elective offices, and occupants must place their name on the ballot and stand for re-election.”

Attorney General Drew Edmondson said in a statement: "I am outraged and disturbed at the outcome of this case. My office is looking into the facts of the case and the plea bargain and examining state statutes and case law to determine what, if any, remedy may be available to the state.”

Case gains notoriety
The case attracted national attention recently when the Fox network ran information on it on segments of "The O’Reilly Factor” produced by Geraldo Rivera.

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