The Edmond Sun

State News

July 17, 2012

Perjury charge is dropped by D.A.

ENID — A felony perjury charge against Enid attorney Eric Edwards was dismissed Monday at the request of the district attorney appointed to prosecute the case.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed a motion to dismiss Monday with Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck. Prater filed the motion to dismiss on the grounds the charge against Edwards lacked merit.

“I have reviewed the facts and circumstances of this case and have determined that there is no merit in the continued prosecution of this matter,” Prater wrote in his motion to dismiss. “This case should be

dismissed and warrant recalled in the best interest of justice.”

Van Dyck granted the motion and signed an order dismissing the felony perjury charge and recalling an arrest warrant in the case. The dismissal brings to an end a felony case that has been hidden from

public view since it was filed by the Major County District Attorney’s Office on May 17.

Edwards was charged with the felony in Major County, but records were removed from a state-operated court website within hours.

The Enid News & Eagle was denied access to the records and told the case was being sealed and removed from the site by order of District Judge Ray Dean Linder. No hearings, notice of sealing the case or announcements of its removal from public view were given.

The News & Eagle filed a suit June 26 to intervene in the case and have the records unsealed.

In his motion to intervene and unseal the records, News & Eagle attorney Michael Minnis argued the peremptory sealing of the felony perjury case violated the newspaper’s rights under the Oklahoma Constitution, the Oklahoma Open Records Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The case was reassigned to Van Dyck by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor on June 28.

Thorp recused his office from the case June 14, and Attorney General Scott Pruitt assigned Prater to the case on June 29.

Repeated calls to Prater’s office inquiring into the status of the case went unanswered, and no official correspondence concerning the felony perjury case was received by the News & Eagle until the case was dismissed Monday.

Stephen Jones, Edwards’ attorney, contacted the News & Eagle Monday and faxed a copy of the motion and order to dismiss the felony perjury charge against his client. Jones said he obtained authorization from Van Dyck to disclose the contents of the motion and order of dismissal.

A matching copy of the motion and order to dismiss also were faxed to the News & Eagle by the office of Major County Court Clerk Shauna Hoffman.

In a faxed statement, Jones said the “motion speaks for itself and needs no further elaboration.”

“It vindicates completely the actions that Judge Linder, as presiding judge, took in sealing the case,” Jones said. “The dismissal further vindicates my client against whom this meritless and oppressive action was directed.”

While the felony perjury charge against Edwards has been dismissed, the News & Eagle still is pursuing its motion to unseal the records in the case.

“The decision to dismiss the charge against Edwards does not address the News & Eagle’s concern,” said News & Eagle publisher Jeff Funk. “Our dispute is with how this entire criminal case was made secret. It was sealed without advance notice, without proper procedure.

“How can the public have faith in a justice system that keeps secrets, that hides certain cases in dark corners, especially a case involving another local attorney?”

Funk went on to question whether this case could represent a broader practice of conducting court proceedings in secret.

“How often are other criminal cases made to disappear, not following proper expungement procedures, but vanishing because one attorney makes a request of another attorney?” he asked.

The News & Eagle’s motion to unseal the records in the case has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

 

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