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Tulsa, Oklahoma Settles Four Wrongful Conviction Lawsuits for $810,000

Tulsa, Oklahoma Settles Four Wrongful Conviction Lawsuits for $810,000

by Matt Clarke

In January 2014, the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man claiming his wrongful conviction was the result of police corruption; that same month the city settled a similar case for $425,000, and it had previously reached settlements in two related suits.

Bobby Wayne Haley, Sr., 59, served four years of a 22-year federal prison sentence for cocaine trafficking. In December 2008 he filed a motion to vacate his sentence, alleging that Tulsa undercover police officer Jeff Henderson had coached an informant to give testimony to support the issuance of a search warrant for his home and business. Prosecutors agreed that the sentence should be vacated, citing evidence that Henderson had committed perjury in both Haley’s case and an unrelated case.

Haley was released and filed a federal civil rights action against Tulsa officials. However, the case was dismissed on summary judgment. Haley then hired new counsel, attorney J. Dereck Ingle, who was able to get part of the case reinstated. The city offered a $35,000 settlement.

“When we came into Mr. Haley’s case at the 11th hour, it had already been dismissed. We were able to convince the court to partially reinstate the case. However, we were severely limited on the evidence we could present at trial, because Mr. Haley’s former attorney did not list some key witnesses and exhibits. Because of this and other reasons, Mr. Haley agreed to settle,” Ingle said in a written statement.

Haley’s suit was resolved on December 8, 2014; the delay was due in part to a child support lien on the settlement payment. See: Haley v. The City of Tulsa, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Okla.), Case No. 4:10-cv-00361-TDL-FHM.

The Tulsa police corruption scandal has thus far resulted in at least 18 lawsuits and a federal grand jury probe into the Tulsa Police Department that generated charges against six former or current police officers and a former federal agent, as well as allegations of criminal behavior against five other police officers who were not charged. The scandal included allegations of falsified search warrants, witness tampering, perjury, drug sales and conspiracy.

Tulsa officials had previously settled two similar lawsuits. In one of those cases, Demario T. Harris, 33, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of drug and firearm charges in 2005. He was released in October 2010 when prosecutors admitted that the “conviction was obtained in violation of the prisoner’s due process rights.” His subsequent lawsuit against the city settled for $50,000.

Additionally, Tulsa officials agreed in December 2013 to a $300,000 settlement in a suit filed by a woman who was wrongly convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Larita Barnes, 37, was arrested in 2008 on charges related to trafficking methamphetamine. The charges were brought by former Tulsa police officer Henderson and former federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent Brandon Jay McFadden.

To procure a sealed indictment against Barnes, Henderson and McFadden falsely testified before a federal grand jury, claiming that a reliable informant had purchased 87 grams of meth from Barnes and her father, Larry Barnes, Sr., 63. To back up their story they booked 87 grams of meth obtained from another source into the property room. The drugs were tested by the crime lab and found to be methamphetamine.

McFadden and Henderson testified against Barnes at her criminal trial. She received two concurrent ten-year federal prison sentences. On July 2, 2009, Barnes’ criminal conviction was overturned and she was released from custody.

Aided by attorney Mark Lyons, Barnes filed a federal civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens against McFadden, Henderson and the City of Tulsa. The suit alleged McFadden and Henderson had falsified evidence and conspired with other law enforcement employees to falsely convict her.

On April 7, 2010, McFadden was indicted on federal charges related to falsifying drug busts, including in Barnes’ case. Three months later Henderson was indicted on federal charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering; he was convicted of six counts of perjury and two counts of civil rights violations in August 2011, and sentenced to 42 months in federal prison. In December 2011, McFadden was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on drug conspiracy charges.

The City of Tulsa decided to settle Barnes’ lawsuit for $300,000; the settlement did not include her claims against the U.S. government for McFadden’s misconduct as an ATF agent. See: Barnes v. City of Tulsa, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Okla.), Case No. 4:10-cv-00507-FHM.

In January 2014, city officials settled another suit stemming from the police corruption scandal, filed by Barnes’ father, Larry Wayne Barnes, Sr. The $425,000 settlement, finalized in March 2014, compensated Mr. Barnes for the 16 months he served in prison following his wrongful conviction on drug charges in 2008. He had received a 66-month sentence. See: Barnes v. City of Tulsa, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Okla.), Case No. 4:11-cv-00582-HE-PJC.

Around 50 people have been freed from prison or had their sentences reduced due to the Tulsa police corruption scandal.

Additional source: Tulsa World


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Related legal cases

Barnes v. City of Tulsa

Haley v. The City of Tulsa

Barnes v. City of Tulsa