OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The former leader of the Oklahoma Senate has asked a federal judge to grant him a new trial on a bribery conviction, alleging that faulty jury instructions and implied agreements between prosecutors and a key government witness tainted the trial.
The motion was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City by attorneys for former Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, who was convicted of bribery March 5. That jury found him not guilty of related extortion and mail fraud counts and could not reach a verdict on other counts.
Morgan was indicted last year by a federal grand jury that alleged he took $250,000 from energy development company Tenaska Inc.; $141,000 from Dilworth Development Co., which wanted to build a landfill in northern Oklahoma; and $12,000 from Silver Oak Senior Living, which sought to limit the Health Department’s regulation of assisted-living centers.
Morgan, a Stillwater attorney, insisted the money was legal fees for work he did for the companies and that he never sacrificed his “independent judgment” when voting on legislation. Prosecutors alleged Morgan did no legal work for the companies.
Jurors convicted Morgan on a single bribery charge that accused him of attempting to influence a bill that would ease regulations on the state’s nursing home industry.
All charges against a co-defendant, lobbyist William Andrew Skeith, were dismissed after prosecutors rested their case. The judge also dismissed half the counts against attorney N. Martin Stringer, and the jury acquitted him on the rest.
No sentencing date has been set for Morgan. Bribery is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but penalties are generally less under federal sentencing guidelines.
Among other things, Morgan’s motion for a new trial alleges that incorrect legal instructions provided to Morgan’s jury reduced the government’s burden to establish that Morgan acted corruptly when he solicited and accepted a bribe from Silver Oak officials.
It also alleges that prosecutors failed to disclose implied agreements between the government and key prosecution witness Sam Crosby, an owner of Senior Living who, according to the motion, had previously pleaded guilty in a bank fraud case.
During Crosby’s testimony, jurors were led to believe the government’s only agreement in exchange for Crosby’s testimony was his expectation of leniency in the bank fraud case, the motion says. But the motion alleges there were other implied agreements between the government and Crosby, including that Crosby would not be prosecuted for bribing a state senator.
In May, U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron denied Morgan’s motion to throw out the bribery conviction and ruled that prosecutors presented enough evidence at trial to support it.
U.S. Attorney Bob Troester said prosecutors plan to respond to Morgan’s motion for a new trial within a couple of weeks.