Appeals Court Upholds Conviction in Tulsa Police Corruption Case

Most police officers are good men and women whose primary goal is to protect and serve the public. Still, there are those that let power go to their heads and let their egos guide their decisions. Even worse are the "dirty cops." These corrupt law enforcement officers think they are above the law, and because of this, they are motivated by greed to break the very laws they are sworn to protect. [caption id="attachment_3835" align="alignleft" width="300"]When cops bust cops. When cops bust cops.[/caption] While local police are watching the civilian criminal, federal agents are watching the local law enforcement officers. In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating corruption in the Tulsa Police Department. As a result of their sting, several police officers and one federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) were convicted of crimes including conspiracy, drug distribution, theft of public funds, and civil rights violations. Earlier this month, the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Oklahoma, upheld the conviction of one of the former Tulsa police officers sentenced in conjunction with the corruption scandal. Harold R. Wells, 62, was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with an intent to distribute it, conspiracy to steal public funds, theft of public funds and using a telephone to facilitate the commission of a drug felony. The charges were filed after surveillance video caught Wells taking "drug money" that was planted in a hotel room by an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer. FBI agents planted $13,000, and of that money seized, Wells and other Tulsa police officers submitted $8,000 as evidence and divided the remaining $5,000 among themselves. Wells appealed his conviction on the following grounds:

  1. the district court erred in ruling he had no expectation of privacy while conducting a consent-based search of a motel room outside the presence of the room’s occupant;
  2. the drug convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence;
  3. the district court erred in excluding certain audio recordings contained on a key fob; and
  4. the district court erred when it denied his motion for a mistrial after a government witness testified about the possibility he had previously negotiated a plea deal with the government.
Despite his claims, the federal appeals court judges ruled 3-0 against Wells, finding no reversible errors and affirming his conviction. Of the three Tulsa police officers and one federal agent sentenced in the case, Wells received the longest sentence. Jeff Henderson was sentenced to 42 months (3.5 years) minus time served, John Gray was sentenced to 4 months in prison followed by 4 years of supervised probation, and former ATF agent Brandon McFadden was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Gray and McFadden received lighter sentences in part for their cooperation with the prosecution. As a result of the corruption--which included stealing drugs to sell, stealing drug money, falsifying testimony, and using illegal search methods--at least 11 people have had their convictions vacated. Earlier this month, the Tulsa Police Department paid $35,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who served 4 years of a 22 year sentence for a cocaine conviction. Haley asserted that police "coached an informant and improperly obtained warrants to search Haley's business and home," and his conviction was vacated. At least 17 people have filed civil rights lawsuits against the Tulsa Police Department as a result of the corruption.  

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