MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 10, 2012

Judge postpones trials for two

Investigation into alleged electronic eavesdropping by DA’s office given as reason

— A Muskogee County judge said he would wait for the findings of an investigation into accusations of potential wrongdoing by the district attorney’s office before he sends two men to trial.

District Judge Mike Norman ruled Wednesday that trials for Derek Gattenby and Donnie Gibson would be postponed until February, pending an investigation requested by the Muskogee County Bar Association.

Gibson, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree rape and two counts of forcible sodomy. Gattenby, 26, is charged with child abuse.

The investigation centers on access to courthouse security cameras by the Muskogee County District Attorney’s Office. The office received two laptops with access to the security cameras from the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Department this year. Area attorneys have said the district attorney’s office could have listened in on confidential conversations between attorneys and their clients.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore has called those accusations “ludicrous.” Moore filed a request for investigation Wednesday with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Norman read a prepared statement to Moore, Jones and another attorney, Larry Vickers, on Wednesday afternoon. Vickers had filed a motion to postpone the trial for his client, Martin Miller, 19, who is accused of first-degree felony murder.

That trial was stricken from the docket because Martin is one of multiple defendants in a murder trial, all of whom will be tried separately, Norman said.

The judge told the attorneys he was postponing Gibson and Gattenby’s trials because there had not been enough time for a complete investigation into the bar association’s accusations.

The parties said Tuesday that none of the agencies — the OSBI, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and Oklahoma Bar Association — had spoken to them in regard to the requested investigation.

In response to Wednesday’s ruling, Moore called the OSBI and requested an investigation.

“We will be asking them to investigate, first off, all these allegations of wrongdoing,” Moore said. “And to do additional investigations of crimes that may have occurred at the courthouse.”

Moore took issue with multiple parts of Norman’s statement.

Norman had said, “Another question may arise as to why the District Attorney immediately stopped this practice upon the public learning of it,” a reference to Moore’s office returning the two laptops to the sheriff’s office last month.

Moore said Wednesday: “I said, ‘Judge, you and (Undersheriff) Terry Freeman talked to me on the phone,’ and you said if I took the laptops out, that would solve 99 percent of the problem. It stopped because he requested it.”

Moore said it’s his position that the DA’s office can have access to the camera feeds.

Norman also said there had been “no evidence, just arguments by attorneys.”

Moore called sheriff’s office IT Administrator Matt Staggs to the stand Tuesday.

Staggs testified he had recorded “about two dozen” DVDs of security footage since the system was installed “five or six years ago.” Staggs said he believed about 10 of those DVDs were burned for the DA’s office.

Staggs said that when the system was installed, the Muskogee County Bar Association met and tested the equipment.

Moore said: “Judge Norman said there hasn’t been any evidence. But we had uncontroverted evidence by Matt Staggs under oath that the system was checked at its inception and that the bar association met and was satisfied. There has never been any evidence to the contrary.

“I have some friends in the Muskogee County Bar Association,” Moore said. “But the bottom line is, my allegiance is to the public. I answer to them. I don’t answer to the attorneys or the judges.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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