Ex-Senator Mike Morgan Sentenced Tuesday

Former Senate President Pro Tem of the Oklahoma Senate, Mike Morgan, Stillwater, was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation following a federal bribery conviction. In March 2011, the FBI and the United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma announced that a federal grand jury handed down a 63-count indictment against Morgan and two other men, charging them with crimes including bribery, conspiracy, extortion, and mail fraud.  Former senator Morgan, attorney Martin Stringer of Oklahoma City, and lobbyist William Skeith of Edmond each pleaded not guilty.  All charges against Skeith were dismissed, as were half of the charges against Stringer.  The attorney was acquitted of the remaining charges. Morgan, however, was found guilty of bribery in March 2012.  He was acquitted of mail fraud and extortion charges, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on remaining charges. The charges came from allegations that Morgan accepted cash from local businesses in return for favorable treatment in the legislature.  According to the indictment, the former senator attempted to use his profession as a lawyer to disguise these payments as legal fees, although, accusers say, no legal work was done for the companies. The FBI and U.S. District Attorney accused Mike Morgan of accepting bribes from three companies.  An FBI press release dated March 31, 2011, describes the alleged crimes: First Scheme—Company A One of Mr. Stringer’s clients was a business identified in the indictment as “Company A.” Company A also hired Mr. Skeith as its lobbyist. The indictment explains that during the spring of 2005, this business was trying to get state and local approval for a new landfill. It is alleged that when Company A was faced with opposition to the landfill in the legislature and among county commissioners, Mr. Stringer and Mr. Skeith had Company A place Senator Morgan on a legal retainer of a flat $50,000 per year. In exchange, the indictment alleges, Senator Morgan used his position as an elected official to keep harmful legislation from passing and to push for bills that would cut back the power of county commissioners to regulate landfills. All told, the indictment alleges that Company A paid Senator Morgan $141,664.52 from 2005 until 2008, when he left the Senate. These allegations form the basis for charges of conspiracy, extortion, and mail fraud. Second Scheme—Company B The indictment further alleges that Mr. Stringer and Mr. Skeith shared another client, identified as “Company B.” This business was hoping to build a power plant in northeastern Oklahoma with the Grand River Dam Authority. Starting at the end of 2004, Company B began paying Senator Morgan at a rate of $5,000 per month. The indictment states that by the time Senator Morgan left the legislature, he had received $250,000 from Company B, supposedly for serving as one of its attorneys. But, according to the indictment, Senator Morgan was taking money in exchange for official acts. Before Company B could build a power plant with the Grand River Dam Authority, it needed to change state law on public competitive bidding and bonding for public construction which, the indictment alleges, Company B accomplished in the 2005 legislative session. The indictment also alleges that Mr. Stringer and Mr. Skeith included Senator Morgan in meetings with public officials to suggest that he supported Company B’s new power plant in his capacity as a leader in the Senate. These allegations form the basis for charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. Third Scheme—Company C Finally, the indictment charges Senator Morgan with taking 12 $1,000 bribe payments in 2006 and 2007 from a business that owned assisted-living centers, identified as Company C. It is alleged this business had been at odds with the Oklahoma Department of Health, which was attempting to impose regulations on assisted-living facilities. It is further alleged that in exchange for payments disguised as legal fees, Senator Morgan authored Senate Bill 738, which became law at the end of the 2007 session and helped Company C by lifting some of its regulatory burdens. These allegations form the basis for a bribery charge. They do not involve Mr. Stringer or Mr. Skeith. Morgan was found guilty only of the bribery charge involving the assisted living facilities.  He maintained that the $12,000 he received from the company was payment for legal services rendered; however, a jury determined that no such services were provided. Former senate leader Mike Morgan faced a potential sentence of up to ten years in prison; however, he asked for--and was granted--a sentence of probation only.  He is required to forfeit $12,000. To find a federal criminal defense attorney or white collar crimes lawyer in Oklahoma,  visit the white collar crimes page of Oklahoma-Criminal-Defense.com.

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