Oklahoma Parole Board Members Charged With Misdemeanors

Wednesday, March 13th 2013, 5:39 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater announced Wednesday evening that he's filed misdemeanor charges against all five members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

The members are accused of violating Oklahoma's Open Meeting Act.

In August 2012, Prater released a letter blasting the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, saying they "would approve certain inmates for early parole consideration even if they did not qualify." The letter came after the family of Joseph Sharp contacted Prater. Sharp was killed by drunken driver Maelene Chambers. Sharp's family was outraged after learning Chambers might get early parole.

8/8/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma County D.A. Accuses Parole Board Of Operating 'Secret' Docket For Inmates

Prater started looking into the matter, and said he discovered the board met about certain inmates without giving proper notice or information to the public on its agenda.

In February, Prater gave board members an ultimatum: Resign or face criminal charges.

They refused, saying they'd done nothing wrong.

2/1/2013 Related Story: OK Parole Board Members Reject Ultimatum

Dr. Marc Dryer is the chairman of the parole board. He says since he was appointed, all decisions have been made in a public forum and he believes the same is true for the board's 60-year history.

Governor Mary Fallin released a statement supporting the parole board members. She said although she may sometimes disagree with their recommendations, they make difficult decisions and deserve to be treated with respect.

"Filing criminal charges against parole board members that have already worked to address Mr. Prater's concerns will have a chilling effect on individuals interested in public service," said Gov. Fallin. "It is difficult to imagine men and women who are leaders in their communities wishing to serve in these positions – the vast majority of which draw no salary – if they are constantly in fear of being charged with a crime while making a good-faith effort to follow the law and the recommendations of their paid legal advisors."