Federal prosecutors Friday called on a judge to sentence former Senate leader Mike Morgan to a significant, lengthy prison term to deter other public officials “tempted by corruption.”
Morgan, 57, of Stillwater, faces up to 10 years in prison on his bribery conviction. Morgan is seeking probation and still claims he is innocent.
The sentencing has not been set yet.
Prosecutors argued to U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron that any substantial show of leniency, especially probation, “would signal to the public that government authorities will tolerate elected officials who compromise their democratic duties.”
“It would also lead future corrupt public officials to think that if they can amass enough goodwill and power, they will not face serious punishment if their corruption is unmasked,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Williams and Vicki Behenna wrote in a 51-page sentencing memo.
Morgan's supporters ask for leniency
Jurors in March found Morgan, a Democrat, guilty of accepting $12,000 in bribes from an Edmond company that operated assisted-living centers.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors publicly allege for the first time that Morgan actually accepted almost $550,000 in bribes from five “clients” in exchange for legislative assistance. They allege Morgan, an attorney, disguised the payments as legal fees.
“I never sold my seat,” Morgan testified during his trial in Oklahoma City's federal courthouse.
More than 400 Morgan supporters have written the judge letters asking for leniency.
Those writing character letters include two U.S. congressmen, university presidents, legislators, lobbyists, former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer and former Oklahoma State University basketball coach Eddie Sutton.
Prosecutors told the judge Friday that it is hardly surprising that Morgan has high-profile friends. “One does not become president pro tem without impressing colleagues and leaders of public and private institutions,” they wrote.
Prosecutors pointed out that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich also submitted many letters of support asking for leniency at his sentencing for corruption.
They noted the federal judge in Illinois “was not impressed” and sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison.
Defense attorneys have asked the judge to take into account Morgan's lifetime of good works, “the weak and questionable evidence” that supported his conviction and his serious medical problems.
Prosecutors called on the judge to take into account other factors “that weigh heavily in favor of incarceration.”
“In particular, the sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment and — most importantly — afford adequate deterrence to other public officials,” prosecutors wrote.
“Mr. Morgan was one of a handful of the most powerful public officials in this state. While president pro tem, he was in a position to impose his will on the direction of state government. By allowing himself to serve the interests of those willing and able to pay him, he committed a crime more serious than bribery by lower-level officials,” they wrote.
About the trial
Morgan was Senate president pro tem in 2005 and 2006. He was Senate co-president pro tem in 2007 and 2008.
At trial, prosecutors put on evidence Morgan also took $250,000 in bribes from an energy company and $141,666 in bribes from a landfill company. Morgan insisted at trial he was paid for legal services.
Jurors acquitted Morgan of fraud counts involving the energy company.
They acquitted him of a conspiracy count involving a landfill company but deadlocked on other felony counts involving the landfill company.
Despite those outcomes, prosecutors want the judge to consider at the sentencing Morgan's acceptance of payments from those two companies.
They also want the judge to consider his acceptance of payments from the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and a lobbying business known as The BKM Group.
Prosecutors wrote: “Although each ‘client' wanted something different, Mr. Morgan made himself available for the same purpose, which was to extract private gain from his public office.
He committed these offenses regularly. For example, he sent out invoices to each ‘client' every month. And all five entities paid Mr. Morgan during the same crucial period — when he was in Senate leadership.”