, Muskogee, OK

October 29, 2013

Witnesses for Terrill say they didn't know of alleged bribe

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Defense witnesses testified Monday they were not aware of a scheme in which a former state lawmaker is accused of bribing a Senate colleague with a job offer so the senator would not seek re-election.

The witnesses, including former Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and former Oklahoma Democratic Party CEO Pat Hall, testified they had no knowledge of allegations that Terrill, a Republican from Moore, offered a bribe to former Democratic state Sen. Debbe Leftwich of Oklahoma City in the form of an $80,000-a-year job at the Medical Examiner's Office.

Prosecutors allege the offer was made to convince Leftwich not to seek re-election to her south Oklahoma City seat so that a GOP colleague of Terrill's, current state Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, could seek her open seat in 2010.

Prosecutors filed bribery charges against Terrill, 44, and Leftwich, 62, whose trial is scheduled for Dec. 9. Christian was never charged and was re-elected to his House seat.

Prosecutors allege Terrill wrote a bill that would create the job of "transition coordinator" at the Medical Examiner's Office for Leftwich and used a separate bill to divert $90,000 to the office from a fund at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. Former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed both measures after the bribery allegations surfaced.

Defense attorneys have said Terrill did not have the authority to promise Leftwich a job, and that Leftwich wasn't technically a candidate for re-election because she never filed the required paperwork with the state Election Board. Terrill left the Legislature last year.

Defense attorneys have also said the actions of Terrill and Leftwich were constitutionally protected because they were acting in their official capacity as legislators.

Coffee testified he did not have a problem with creating the new transition coordinator position and did not know about Leftwich's alleged involvement in the scheme. He said Leftwich told him she was considering not running for re-election in March 2010.

"Perhaps it was time to turn the page," Coffee said, recalling his conversation with Leftwich.

Hall, a lobbyist who said he handled all of Leftwich political campaigns, testified Leftwich also told him in March 2010 she would not seek re-election. He said she had actively recruited a candidate to run for the Democratic nomination for her seat in February 2010.

Hall said Leftwich, who he said formerly worked at the Medical Examiner's Office, never told him she wanted to return there. He said she indicated she had done all she set out to do after succeeding her late husband, former Sen. Keith Leftwich, who died of cancer in 2003.

"She wanted to finally take time to be a grieving widow," Hall said.

Terrill and Leftwich have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Meanwhile, Terrill reaffirmed for Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong his plan to testify in his own defense. Defense attorney Chris Eulberg told jurors in his opening statement in the case on Oct. 22 that Terrill would testify.

Truong questioned Terrill on whether he understood that prosecutors would have a right to cross-examine Terrill is he testifies.

"I do and I welcome it," Terrill replied.

Terrill is expected to testify on Tuesday. Truong told his 12-member jury to plan to remain at the courthouse Tuesday for as long as it takes to reach a verdict.