By Tim Talley
The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — A former Oklahoma lawmaker is scheduled to go to trial in connection with an alleged bribery scheme in which another former state lawmaker has already been convicted.
Trial is scheduled in Oklahoma County for former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, on a felony charge of soliciting a bribe for withdrawal of candidacy, a felony. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Dec. 9.
Leftwich has pleaded not guilty. She faces up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.
Leftwich is accused of working with former Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, to secure an $80,000-a-year job at the state Medical Examiner’s Office for her in exchange for her promise not to run for re-election in 2010 so a Republican colleague of Terrill’s could seek her open seat.
Terrill was convicted in October on a charge of offering a bribe for withdrawal of candidacy. His jury recommended that he serve one year in prison and pay a $5,000 fine. Formal sentencing is scheduled on Dec. 20, but a judge has allowed Terrill to remain free on a $10,000 bond while he appeals his conviction.
Prosecutors alleged that Terrill, best known as the author of Oklahoma’s tough immigration law adopted by the Legislature in 2007, 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. Then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, 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. They have also argued that the actions of Terrill and Leftwich were constitutionally protected because they were acting in their official capacity as legislators.
A prosecution witness, Cherokee Ballard, a former television reporter who worked as the legislative liaison for the Medical Examiner’s Office in 2010, testified that she and the agency’s chief administrative officer, Tom Jordan, felt pressure from Terrill, who made it known he wanted Leftwich hired for the post.
“We felt like we didn’t have a choice,” Ballard said.
Terrill testified in his own defense and denied telling officials at the agency to hire Leftwich. He said their memories of the conversations were confused.
He also said the measure creating the new position was approved only after it received majority votes in both the state House and the Senate.
“I cannot do anything by myself,” Terrill said. “I’m a bill manager, and my job is to move the bill through the process.”
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.