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.”Comments
Case gains notorietyThe case attracted national attention recently when the Fox network ran information on it on segments of "The O’Reilly Factor” produced by Geraldo Rivera. The district attorney said the program misstated a number of facts in the case. "I think it’s abhorrent that local, state and national media are trying to crucify the district judge for doing nothing more than accepting a plea bargain, something he does almost every day,” Pittsburg County District Attorney J.B. Miller said. "He was doing his job. So were we.” Rivera lambasted the judge and district attorney. He said the judge turned down a request to record the girl’s testimony and avoid confronting Earls in open court. That’s wrong, Miller said. The child testified in open court during a pre-trial hearing. Earls was present. Before trial, prosecutors were trying to get the girl qualified to testify on closed circuit, a procedure to determine whether the child could discern between the truth and a lie, Miller said. The judge did certify that the child could testify by closed circuit. But Miller said his assistants, a child advocate and her family feared she would freeze up and Earls could end up being freed. That’s when the plea bargain was reached — before the trial began.
The physical evidenceThe child’s genitals were scarred, but the forensic examiner couldn’t say when, how or who caused that, and was unable to gather DNA evidence, Miller said. "There’s nobody in this town who, more than me, would have liked to have seen David Earls go to prison for a million years,” Miller said. Earls was sentenced to 20 years for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in 1996. He served seven years and was released for medical reasons in 2003, according to records. While he was out on the medical parole for cancer, he began living with the mother of the victim, Miller said. Earls, who must also register as a sex offender, is expected to have three years to live, Miller said.