, Muskogee, OK

January 26, 2013

Jury foreman conduct results in Okla. mistrial

Associated Press

— TULSA— A federal judge declared a mistrial Friday in a case that deals with what a prosecutor called a "remarkably sophisticated takeover robbery" at a Broken Arrow Radio Shack.

U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell found that the jury foreman improperly communicated about the trial with a relative after it was in progress and failed to disclose during the jury-selection process that he had been a victim of an unrelated armed robbery.

The mistrial means that James Paul Wright, 22, and Wesley Ryan Wilson, 24, will be retried starting Feb. 19.

Co-defendants Joseph Benjamin Wilson, 21, and Cory James Sullivan, 18, have already pleaded guilty to their roles in the Aug. 22 robbery at 6331 S. Elm Place, during which employees were taken into a back room at gunpoint and bound with duct tape.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Woodward said in his opening statement Wednesday that the heist was a "remarkably sophisticated takeover robbery" that featured tactical gear, bulletproof vests, code names and "phony accents."

An FBI affidavit says Wright was motivated by "extreme debt and needed money."

Attorneys Stan Monroe, representing Wright, and Art Fleak, representing Wesley Wilson, conceded in their closing arguments that their clients were guilty of the first three counts of the Nov. 7 indictment, charges that deal with the attempted robbery, the conspiracy to commit it and an accompanying firearm count.

However, they challenged the charges connected to an alleged carjacking in which Wesley Wilson is accused of taking an employee's car after the robbery.

If found guilty of the gun charge connected to the alleged carjacking, Wright and Wesley Wilson would face an additional 25 years in prison in addition to their punishment for the other counts, which could be in the 11- to 12-year range.

Monroe and Fleak claimed that carjacking was not part of the robbery conspiracy plan, although Woodward asked why the employee's car keys were taken if no carjacking was planned.

The allegation that the jury foreman had communicated about the trial with a relative during a Thursday night phone call was brought to the attention of the defense attorneys on Friday morning, and they conveyed it to the court.

While questioning jurors about that issue, it came to light that the jury foreman had also been telling fellow jurors that he had been a victim of an armed robbery at a convenience store.

Frizzell said the juror had not disclosed that information when questioned during the jury-selection process Tuesday.

The jury had started its deliberations late Thursday afternoon and resumed them Friday morning. It reported that it had reached a verdict about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

However, Frizzell found that any verdict was reached with a "tainted foreperson" and would not be revealed, even to him.

When Fleak asked the judge if the attorneys could attempt to find out what the verdict would have been, Frizzell replied that if he tried to, "you will be put in prison. You will go directly to jail. You may not pass go or collect $200."

Joseph Wilson pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to the three robbery-related counts.

Sullivan, whose full name is James Corrigan Kenneth Theodore Allen Tate-Sullivan, pleaded guilty Jan. 17 to those counts as well as to the carjacking charge.

Neither man has been sentenced.

Trial testimony indicated that Joseph Wilson and Sullivan had competed against each other for several years in the sport of ice dancing.