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January 9, 2013

Ex-Senate leader gets probation

OKLAHOMA CITY — The powerful former leader of the Oklahoma Senate was sentenced to five years’ probation Tuesday after being convicted of taking a $12,000 bribe in exchange for his influence on legislation.

Former Senate President Pro-Tem Mike Morgan had faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was convicted on a federal bribery charge in March, though jurors acquitted him of related extortion and mail fraud counts and couldn’t reach a verdict on other counts.

U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron issued the sentence and declined to impose a fine on Morgan, 57, a lawyer from Stillwater. Morgan will have to forfeit $12,000

Some of Morgan’s family members and friends in the courtroom whispered “Yes!” as Cauthron announced the sentence. Afterward, a teary-eyed Morgan embraced them as many wept.

“I love you all,” Morgan said. “God bless my family, my friends. They believed in me. They stood by me.”

Morgan said he intends to appeal his conviction and repeated assertions he has made since he was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2011 that he did not commit a crime.

In sentencing Morgan, Cauthron noted he was originally charged with 63 counts but convicted of only one, and she said much of the evidence produced by federal prosecutors was suspect.

The judge indicated that she was impressed by the more than 400 letters she received requesting leniency for Morgan. Among those writing on Morgan’s behalf were three former governors, current and former lawmakers, tribal leaders and other elected officials.

“I think the letters probably spoke volumes,” Morgan said afterward.

Prosecutors had sought prison time for Morgan in what U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats said was “one of the most significant public corruption cases in this district in decades.”

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