Prosecutors are asking a federal appeals court to order a trial judge to resentence former Oklahoma state Senate leader Mike Morgan to “a substantial period of incarceration” on his bribery conviction.
Prosecutors contend U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron abused her discretion when she gave Morgan probation. They called probation “unreasonable” for the case.
They argued that punishment — the least severe possible — could lead other public officials to conclude the benefits of taking bribes outweigh the risks.
“Rather than deterring public corruption, a probationary sentence here could easily encourage it,” prosecutors told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a legal brief filed Wednesday. “Similar public-corruption cases, featuring defendants with personal characteristics similar to Mr. Morgan's, routinely result in meaningful prison terms.”
A federal jury last year found Morgan, a Democrat, guilty of accepting $12,000 in bribes to influence legislation in 2007. Morgan, an attorney, testified at the trial in Oklahoma City federal court that the payments were for legal work.
In January, the judge sentenced Morgan to probation for five years.
In explaining her decision to impose probation, the judge in January said Morgan was convicted on “very suspect evidence.”
She said Morgan had more than 400 supporters. She said he almost certainly will lose his license to practice law. She pointed to the publicity surrounding the case and noted that both Morgan's physical health and finances had suffered because of the case.
She also noted the jury had acquitted Morgan or had been deadlocked on other felony counts against him.
Prosecutors criticized the judge's reasoning. They were particularly critical of the judge for considering collateral consequences to Morgan in reaching her decision.
“They should play no role,” prosecutors wrote. “This is nothing less than doling out leniency to those in the privileged classes.”
Morgan is appealing his conviction on insufficient evidence and other grounds.
Morgan had faced up to 10 years in prison. He was Senate president pro tem in 2005 and 2006. He was Senate co-president pro tem in 2007 and 2008.