A Delaware County attorney has filed a $725,000 lawsuit against the judicial district's district attorney alleging he was defamed by his actions.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, Winston Connor filed the suit in Delaware County District Court against Kenny Wright, who serves as the 13th Judicial District's district attorney.
In the suit, Connor charges Wright committed libel, libel per se and slander, in releasing copies of an audio conversation between Connor and Slint Tate, a prisoner within the Oklahoma Correctional System.
Connor wrote in his suit Wright "knowingly and maliciously" committed acts "of slander and libel" during his release of the wiretaps to members of the media. Connor requests the lawsuit be decided by a jury trial.
Response to the lawsuit
On Wednesday, Wright said he was still reviewing the lawsuit.
"I'm not particularly concerned with it, because everything I said was true and within the bounds of professional conduct," Wright said, adding that he planned to contact the Attorney General's office concerning the allegations.
"I followed the rules, despite what he alleges. The allegations are that, just allegations. I followed the rules, period."
On Thursday, Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, said a member of the office will serve as Wright's legal counsel in regards to the lawsuit.
Gerszewski said the suit would proceed like most civil lawsuits, and the next action may not come before the next two months.
Wright said he is still determining if the funds Connor requested - if awarded by the court - would come from his own pocket, or that of the county or judicial district.
"First he would have to obtain a judgement against me, which is not likely," Wright said. "So he sued me personally, for me doing my job, so the lawyers will argue about how that works outs."
Multiple calls to Stanley Monroe's office, one of Connor's attorneys, regarding the lawsuit were not returned as of presstime.
More about the release
The conversation was released to the media by Wright on Aug. 30. It is part of a wiretap authorized by members of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, in conjunction with the District 13 Drug Task Force and agents with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
At the time of the release, Wright confirmed Connor remains under investigation in connection with Tate’s RICO [Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization] drug ring, for his possible involvement in the destruction of evidence, an instance of assault and battery, and an alleged solicitation for murder.
Wright said copies of the wiretaps were presented to state and federal investigators, the Oklahoma Bar Association's general counsel and each defense attorney connected to Tate's drug activities.
At the time, Wright said, Connor, could face criminal charges in connection to the wiretap evidence, and also disbarment from the bar association for “potential professional misconduct.” As of press time, no charges have been filed.
In the 43-page document, the lawsuit filed by Connor and submitted by his attornies Monroe and Paul Demuro, states Wright "knowingly made outrageous, reckless and malicious false allegations against Plaintiff Connor" including those related to an RICO investigation, that he was involved in the potential destruction of evidence, alleged he was involved in causing an assault and battery upon an individual and an alleged solicitation for murder.
The lawsuit also argues Wright committed libel and slander by saying Connor could face disbarment and possible criminal charges. In doing so, the lawsuit contends Wright was "inferring that [the] Plaintiff had engaged in criminal behavior and professional misconduct."
Submitted as evidence with the suit were copies of stories which ran in the Grove Sun and Miami News Record online on Aug. 30, and in print on Sept. 1, as well as additional articles from The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman.
"As a result of the malicious actions of Defendant Wright in publishing and disseminating false allegations involving Plaintiff Connor to members of the media and such newspapers memorializing these false allegations, within their respective articles, the articles were disseminated to the Associated Press."
The lawsuit also names a "member or members of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office" who were responsible for "disseminating such false information" to one or more reporters, who then contacted Wright and "participated with Defendant Wright" making such false publications regarding Plaintiff Connor."
The lawsuit alleges at the time Wright spoke with the media, "there had been no charges of any kind filed against the plaintiff."
The lawsuit also contends Wright "knew the statements and insinuations he made regarding the audio recording ... were false and misleading, yet he published such statements with malice, thereby evidencing some ulterior and illicit purpose."
More about Tate
Tate's drug organization, which he allegedly ran from prison, is accused of distributing marijuana and methamphetamine ranging from a few grams to multiple pounds, as well as the crimes of breaking and entering, obtaining stolen property, assaults, and additional criminal activity in northeast Oklahoma.
Ottawa and Delaware County authorities made numerous arrests of Tate’s associates in May 2016, in what Wright has described as one of the bigger meth and marijuana rings in Oklahoma.
At least 28 defendants faced felony charges in connection to the ring's criminal activities. The Delaware County cases have since been transferred to Ottawa County District Court for prosecution.
Tate, 33, is serving a life sentence, with out the possibility of parole, at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester for killing Delaware County Sheriff’s Special Deputy Vernie Roberts on July 19, 1999, while Roberts and his wife, were transporting the then-juvenile offender to a detention facility.
Several of Tate's RICO members have received sentences, connected to their criminal cases. Others have taken pleas, while many defendants’ cases remain in legal process.