The city of Tulsa prevailed Tuesday on all claims against it by a man whose conviction and life sentence were vacated as a result of an investigation into corruption within the Tulsa Police Department.
In a lawsuit filed by DeMarco Deon Williams, U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern found that the city cannot be found to be "deliberately indifferent" to constitutional rights violations allegedly committed by former Officer Jeff Henderson in 2004.
Williams was convicted April 25, 2008, of gun and drug crimes that reportedly occurred in 2004, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Williams alleged that Henderson fabricated the existence of an informant and made up all or part of Williams' alleged subsequent confession.
Prosecutors moved to vacate his conviction and sentence in March 2010, and he was ordered freed from federal prison on April 30, 2010, records show.
In July 2011, Williams filed a federal lawsuit in which he sought to impose legal liability on the city based on allegations that the Tulsa Police Department inadequately trained its officers regarding informant testimony and written confessions and essentially "ratified" Henderson's conduct.
Kern ruled that the constitutional rights violations that were dealt with in the criminal case against Henderson occurred starting in 2005, after the events that resulted in Williams' imprisonment.
"The city cannot be deemed deliberately indifferent ... to constitutional violations committed by Henderson in 2004, when the first instance in the alleged 'pattern and practice' of similar violations by Henderson occurred after that time," Kern wrote.
Kern also dismissed the claims brought against Henderson in his former "official capacity" as a police officer.
Tuesday's ruling means the case's only remaining legal claim is one against Henderson in his individual capacity.
Henderson was convicted in August 2011 of perjury and civil rights violations and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.
At least 15 lawsuits have been filed against the city in connection with the federal grand jury investigation into corruption within the Tulsa Police Department.
Attorney Clark Brewster, whose firm has donated its services to represent the city in litigation related to the corruption probe, said Tuesday that he has always been confident that the city would be successful in the cases and that so far things have been going "according to plan."
The city has previously received favorable rulings from U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell in similar lawsuits filed by Patrick Neil London and Hugo Alberto Gutierrez.
On Jan. 14, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton dismissed a lawsuit against the federal government filed by Larry Wayne Barnes Sr., finding that it was not filed in a timely fashion.
Barnes, who was convicted and sentenced in 2008 on felony drug charges, was freed from federal prison in 2009 as a part of the police corruption probe. Among other things, he claimed in his Aug. 22 lawsuit that the federal government should be responsible for the acts of former U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agent Brandon McFadden.
McFadden is serving a 21-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to a drug conspiracy charge.
Copyright 2013 - Tulsa World, Okla.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service