Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cherokee County DA Indicted

From the Muskogee Phoenix

Indictment says DA Gray embezzled nearly $9,000

By Donna Hales
Phoenix Staff Writer

— TAHLEQUAH — A multicounty grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday charges District Attorney Richard Gray with embezzling almost $9,000 seized during drug raids.
Gray is the chief prosecutor in Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties.
“I spent my entire legal career believing in the system and have no reason to believe it won’t work this time,” Gray said.
The money in question was legally forfeited after being placed in a safe in District 27’s Drug Task Force Office.
The indictment states witnesses were present when Gray took two sealed envelopes from the safe March 25, 2004, one containing $2,300 and the other containing $6,534 from separate 2003 Drug Task Force seizures.
Gray allegedly signed a log for the money at the time he received it. He indicated he was going to place the funds into a safety deposit box in Cherokee County.
Such funds must be deposited with the county treasurer’s office and become property of the state of Oklahoma at that time, said Assistant Attorney General Joel-lyn McCormick, director of the multicounty grand jury unit.
“The last person to have these funds after they were taken from the safe was the defendant,” McCormick said. “When it was time to deposit them with the county treasurer (after receiving a court order for forfeiture), he was unable to produce the funds.”
Gray’s attorney, Clark Brewster, said Gray was charged with only one count of embezzlement and that in some respects, “there’s a good deal of relief.”
Brewster said the grand jury had been looking behind every stone for months in an investigation of Gray’s administration — “and there’s nothing to it — some money missing. And we have some belief where it went, and we believe we can prove that.”
McCormick’s assessment of the indictment didn’t match Brewster’s. She said grand jurors found a “pattern of corruption, a pattern of behavior throughout this administration of total disregard of how the people’s business should be handled.”
There has been no accusation for removal of Gray from office, McCormick said. The procedure to remove Gray could take longer than the two months he has left in office, she said.
Gray was defeated in the primary election by a former assistant in his office, Jerry Moore of Tahlequah. Moore faces Republican Brian Kuester in the general election Nov. 7.
Gray said he won’t resign — that there is no reason to.
The indictment was read to a packed courtroom, including about a dozen former employees of the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office. Gray took office in January 2003.
“We were just ready for justice,” said Sonja Glory, a legal secretary for 15 years for Gray’s three predecessors.
Monte Strout, who resigned as first assistant district attorney early in Gray’s administration, said, “It’s a bad deal for the system, bad for the district and bad for district attorneys in general.”
The newly elected administration will have to in some ways make up for the default in integrity in Gray’s administration for months and years to come in order to restore public confidence, Strout said.
“I think that will be done,” Strout said. “Right now, public confidence in the office is pretty low.”
McCormick said the investigation into Gray’s administration is not over, and more indictments could be forthcoming.
The 10th multicounty grand jury was impaneled to serve 18 months and has served 17 months, she said. They meet again Nov. 7.
The panel could serve up to 24 months, at the discretion of the presiding judge. Should the judge request that, the panel would decide if it wanted to continue meeting, McCormick said.
The same multicounty grand jury indicted former assistant district attorney Janet Bickel and Gray’s former office manager, Vyrl Keeter, in January.
Bickel, 49, pleaded guilty to one count of offering false evidence, one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and perjury. She received a five-year deferred sentence with supervised probation on each count and was ordered to pay $7,000 in fines.
Keeter, 74, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted subornation of perjury in Wagoner and Cherokee counties for allegedly helping witnesses deceive the grand jury. A judge gave him five-year suspended sentences to run concurrently on each count and told him to pay $2,500 in fines.
Keeter earlier had pleaded guilty in Oklahoma County District Court to lying to the grand jury twice. He was sentenced in June to five years unsupervised probation and given a $2,500 fine for those crimes.
Reach reporter Donna Hales at 684-2923 or dhales@

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.


W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General
Bickel, Keeter Sentenced in Drug Evidence Investigation

A former Cherokee County assistant district attorney and the district attorney’s office administrator pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from an ongoing Multicounty Grand Jury investigation.

Janet Bickel, former assistant district attorney, and Vyrl Keeter, office administrator, were indicted in January after an investigation discovered drug possession, tampering with evidence and a cover-up scheme. The indictments contained multiple counts covering three Oklahoma counties.

Bickel pleaded guilty today in Wagoner County District Court to one count of offering false evidence and one count of possession of controlled dangerous substance. Bickel today also pleaded guilty to an Oklahoma County charge of perjury. She received a five-year deferred sentence per count with supervised probation and was ordered to pay a total of $7,000 in fines. She was also ordered to complete a drug assessment and evaluation, and to complete any treatment determined as necessary. Bickel’s deferred sentences will run concurrently.

Keeter pleaded guilty to one count of attempted subornation of perjury in both Wagoner and Cherokee County District Courts for his alleged schemes to help witnesses deceive the grand jury. Keeter received a five-year suspended sentence per count and was ordered to pay a total of $2,500 in fines. Keeter’s suspended sentences will run concurrently.


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