Former Gov. Brad Henry and more than a dozen former and current legislators are among the witnesses who could testify this week in a political bribery case.
An Oklahoma County judge plans to begin the preliminary hearing for state Rep. Randy Terrill and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich Monday morning.
Special Judge Stephen Alcorn has set aside four days this week for the hearing. The judge must decide if the evidence is sufficient for a later trial.
The preliminary hearing finally gets under way at a time when District Attorney David Prater himself has come under investigation.
Terrill, R-Moore, and Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, deny wrongdoing. Terrill also has claimed he is being targeted for political reasons.
Terrill, 42, is accused of offering Leftwich a bribe — an $80,000-a-year state job — to not run last year for re-election. Prosecutors allege he acted so his friend, state Rep. Mike Christian, could seek her Senate seat.
Leftwich, 60, is accused in a separate felony count of soliciting and/or accepting a bribe.
Prosecutors allege the job was a new state position — a transition coordinator to help the state medical examiner's office move from Oklahoma City to Edmond.
Witnesses reported Terrill was the legislator who had the position added to a reform bill.
Officials at the medical examiner's office said he pressured them to hire Leftwich.
Leftwich never got the job. Henry vetoed the reform bill after the district attorney announced he was investigating the circumstances behind the job's creation.
Also, Christian, a Republican, dropped plans to run for the Senate. Christian then won re-election to his south Oklahoma City House seat.
Terrill and Leftwich were charged in December. The preliminary hearing was delayed more than once because Leftwich claimed she had legislative immunity from prosecution. Both the state Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals rejected her efforts to stop the bribery case from going forward.
Prater, a Democrat, said his enemies are behind an investigation into his 2006 campaign. The state attorney general's office this month asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of official misconduct, an OSBI spokeswoman said.
“When you go after powerful people, you make powerful enemies,” Prater said Thursday.
It was not Terrill who took the accusations to the attorney general, Terrill's attorney said.
At this week's hearing, prosecutors are expected to call about 15 witnesses, including some of the legislators they list as witnesses.
Prosecutors did not list the former governor as a witness. Instead, Terrill subpoenaed Henry and House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, to appear as defense witnesses.
Terrill's lead attorney, Stephen Jones, said Henry was listed as a witness because he vetoed the reform bill. “We believe that he received inaccurate and misleading information that led him to veto a very constructive piece of legislation,” Jones said.
Jones said he wants to find out why the former governor vetoed the reform bill and what Henry was told.
Henry, a Democrat, told The Oklahoman on Friday that he doesn't expect to actually testify this week.
“I can't imagine that he really would call me. I don't think I can add much to either side of the case,” he said. “My veto message is pretty clear.”
When he vetoed the reform bill last year, Henry called the transition coordinator job highly paid and “entirely unnecessary in the operation of the agency.”
Henry told legislators then, “At a time when the state has been forced to cut many important programs and services, the creation of such a position cannot be justified or supported.”
CONTRIBUTING: Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau