A state representative testified Tuesday he was told to keep quiet after he drank too much at a party and talked about rumors a senator was getting a state job.
The testimony came on the second day of a preliminary hearing in the political bribery case against state Rep. Randy Terrill and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich.
The witness, Rep. Mike Christian, told a judge that Terrill and then Leftwich spoke to him at the Capitol in May 2010 — a day or so after the party — about being quiet.
Christian quoted Terrill, R-Moore, as saying, “Hey, Senator Leftwich wanted me to relay a message: You need to be quiet. … Pipe down.”
He testified that he asked if he needed to apologize and that Terrill said, “No.”
He testified Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, later came up to him, hugged his neck and said, “You need to be quiet. You're going to get me in trouble.”
Christian at the time intended to run for Leftwich's Senate seat and then run in 2012 for Oklahoma County sheriff. Leftwich announced on May 28, 2010 — the last day of the legislative session — that she would not seek re-election.
Terrill, 42, is accused of offering Leftwich a bribe — an $80,000-a-year medical examiner's job — to not run for re-election. Prosecutors allege he acted to improve the chances his friend, Christian, would win her Senate seat.
Leftwich, 60, is accused in a separate felony count of soliciting and/or accepting a bribe.
Leftwich never got the job. Gov. Brad Henry in June 2010 vetoed the reform bill that would have created the job of transition coordinator at the medical examiner's office.
Christian was never charged
Christian, a Republican, dropped plans to run for the Senate after prosecutors said they were investigating how the job was created. Christian later won re-election to his south Oklahoma City House seat.
Prosecutors initially investigated Christian, too, but did not charge him. He said he did not make any deals with prosecutors for his testimony because he doesn't know of any crime that was committed. Christian testified he told a district attorney's investigator, “If I had smelled any impropriety, I would have been the first one to scream foul.”
He testified a distraught Leftwich approached him in tears in March 2010 and asked him if he was running for her seat. He said he then had a “stealth campaign” already under way. He said, “I denied somewhat running against her. I was less than truthful with Senator Leftwich.”
About the May 2010 party, Christian acknowledged he probably had a little too much to drink and had been “running my mouth.” He said he thought he was being told to be quiet because Leftwich had not told leaders of her own party yet she was not running for re-election.
The party was at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, prosecutors have said in court papers.
Other witness testimony
Another witness Tuesday said Leftwich told him on April 19, 2010, she might be returning to the medical examiner's office. The witness, state Sen. Patrick Anderson, testified Leftwich said she worked there on April 19, 1995, when the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed.
Anderson, a Republican, said Leftwich told him “she was working with my leadership to go back there but she couldn't discuss it.”
Anderson said he considered it odd that Senate Republican leaders would help a Democrat on an issue like that.
Oklahoma County Special Judge Stephen Alcorn will hear from more prosecution witnesses Wednesday. He also will hear from defense witnesses later in the week. He eventually must decide if the evidence is sufficient for a trial. Both Terrill and Leftwich deny doing anything wrong.
“There's no crime here,” Terrill's attorney, Stephen Jones, told reporters. “It's obvious by the questions that the district attorney's office does not know how the Legislature works. These are routine political, governmental matters.”
The first witness Tuesday, state Senate employee Jennifer Mullens, testified she added the transition coordinator position to the reform bill at Terrill's direction. She said she met with Terrill on May 17, 2010, less than two weeks before the 2010 legislative session ended.
The state constitution prohibits a legislator from working for a state agency within two years of leaving office unless the salary comes from private or federal funds. Prosecutors allege Terrill knew of the prohibition but sought to get around it by paying for the new position with a special narcotics bureau fund.