Oklahoma Co. DA Convenes Grand Jury To Investigate State Pardon & Parole Board, County Jail Administration

Wednesday, September 29th 2021, 9:55 pm
By: Barry Mangold


The Oklahoma County district attorney requested a grand jury investigation of the operation of the Oklahoma County jail and the state pardon and parole board. 

David Prater submitted an application Wednesday to the Oklahoma County District Court, which was later signed by Judge Ray Elliot. 

"One purpose for calling an Oklahoma County grand jury is for it to investigate credible allegations that involve official corruption and/or official neglect," Prater said in the application, in part. 

Prater declined a request for comment Wednesday. 

The pardon and parole board is already under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in connection with its recommended commuted sentence of Lawrence Anderson. 

After Gov. Kevin Stitt followed the board recommendation, Anderson was released from prison. Within weeks, authorities in Chickasha arrested Anderson for a gruesome triple-murder

Prater wrote that “credible allegations have been made” regarding the board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Anderson and another inmate, Jonathan Perez. 

Tom Bates, the director of the board said he can’t comment on Prater’s grand jury investigation because the OSBI probe is ongoing. 

The office of Gov. Kevin Stitt, who directed the OSBI to investigate the pardon and parole board, called Prater’s request for a grand jury investigation a “political stunt.” 

“The governor instructed OSBI to investigate the Pardon and Parole Board months ago and remains confident in that process,” said Charlie Hannema, a spokesperson for Stitt. “This move by District Attorney Prater is his latest political stunt to intimidate the Pardon and Parole Board and obstruct the Constitutional process as high profile cases that his office prosecuted are being considered.” 

Separately, Prater also requested the grand jury convene to investigate the administration of the embattled Oklahoma County Detention Center. 

Facing significant staffing and sanitation issues, the Oklahoma State Health Department rescinded the jail’s certification to house juveniles earlier this year. 

Related: All Juvenile Inmates In Oklahoma County Detention Center To Be Transferred After Health Dept. Inspection

Prater alleged jail administrators have “repeatedly ignored” issues including the reporting of inmate injuries and suicides to the OSDH and required sight checks of inmates on suicide watch. He said the jail administration’s lack of response has led to “preventable loss of life.” 

Greg Williams, the jail administrator since 2019, said they have been addressing the issues since he started. 

“We know there are more improvements to be made, but we continue to be proactive in removing barriers to quality of life for those who live and work within the Oklahoma County Detention Center,” Williams said in a statement Wednesday. 

According to Prater’s request, the grand jury will have jurisdiction inside Oklahoma County. It will have the ability to issue subpoenas for testimony and can recommend the removal of officials from their office or criminal charges.