, Muskogee, OK

November 9, 2012

Ex-officer claims surveillance violated his rights

Associated Press

— TULSA (AP) – A former Tulsa police officer serving a 10-year prison sentence for his role in a corruption scandal says a videotaped FBI sting that showed him stealing money during what he thought was a motel drug bust was illegal and violated his right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution, according to a new court filing.

Ex-Cpl. Harold Wells, a 35-year-police veteran, makes the claims in a brief filed Thursday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Wells was among 11 officers to be charged or named as unindicted co-conspirators in the scandal, which was among the worst to ever hit the department.

Wells was secretly videotaped at the motel in 2009 stealing money during what he and another officer believed was a drug bust of a Texas man. Of $13,000 seized, officers turned in $8,000 and divided the other $5,000 among themselves. Later, they became suspicious and tried to return the money, prosecutors said.

Wells’ attorney, William Lunn, said Friday that prosecutors did not have a warrant to videotape the bogus transaction in the motel room and criticized the quality of the recording itself, alleging the government showed only snippets of tape that were more favorable to its case.

“We don’t have all their conversations,” Lunn said. “There are just these little portions left, and it’s unfair for any American citizen to just have a little snippet of a conversation being played against them without a court order.”

Lunn described Wells as a model officer who got caught up through no fault of his own with other convicted Tulsa officers as the government probe went on.

“Our point is that Wells was nothing but a highly respected police officer, and he had a really illustrious career as a police officer,” Lunn said. “He saved people’s lives; he brought in dozens of drug dealers. There was never a hint of impropriety about him.”

Federal prosecutor Jane Duke, who tried the government’s case against the officers, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

A federal investigation of the department has resulted in more than 40 defendants having convictions overturned or winning release from prison.