In an unexpected turn of events on Tuesday, felony charges against the state superintendent were dropped, according to online records.
“This is a joyful day for me and my family and a day for which we have long anticipated,” Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said during a press conference Tuesday evening. “For nine months, I have had to conduct my life in the shadow of unjust and untrue accusations.”
Hofmeister along with four others were charged with violating campaign finance laws and conspiracy to commit a felony. Online records show the charges against all five were dropped today "pending further investigation."
Hofmeister said she had not spoken with the other four and had only learned the charges were being dropped Tuesday morning.
The quartet of other ex-defendants were the former executive directors of the Oklahoma Educators Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, Lela Odom and Steven Crawford, respectively. Hofmeister’s campaign consultant Robert Fount Holland and a political consultant for the group that ran attack ads against Hofmeister’s opponent, Stephanie Milligan.
At the time of the indictment, Milligan was a high-ranking member of the Donald J. Trump campaign for president. She was promoted from her position as Oklahoma Campaign Director to Midwest Regional Political Organizer before listing herself as a "Battle Ground State Political Director"for the campaign on her LinkedIn profile.
In a statement, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said the investigation is ongoing.
"We have received additional information on one or more of the defendants in the case," he wrote. "We intend to further investigate the case…"
Prater added the statute of limitations is not an issue in the ongoing investigation.
At the heart of the case was whether Hofmesiter knew about "dark money" ads against her opponent. “Dark money” is typically defined as money given to or spent on behalf of a candidate without the group behind the funds disclosing their donors.
Despite numerous text messages and emails showing Hofmeister knew about an outside group funding attack ads, her lawyer, Gary Wood, said Tuesday it was never used.
“There was no dark money in this case so we won't talk about it,” Wood said in response to a question about dark money in state campaigns.
Wood stepped in on other questions during the press conference as well, including after the superintendent was asked whether she had negative feelings toward Prater for bringing the charges in the first place. Hofmeister opened her mouth to speak but instead turned to Wood, who gave a short “no.” His answer was met with laughs from some in the room.
In the course of the short press conference, Hofmeister asserted her innocence several times and thanked her family and supporters. She said she's putting this investigation behind her, with the school year officially underway.
“I think all want what's best for kids and no matter where anyone might be in politics that's something that unites us all,” she said.
Wood said there were no current plans to sue the county, despite calling the charges “erroneous.” Hofmeister said she “absolutely” plans on running for reelection in 2018. She was elected to her position in 2014.