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Nick Singer is the Program Director of Oklahoma Progress Now. The organization is helping the petition efforts to remove Oklahoma County DA David Prater.

Guest opinion by Nick Singer

Last week, Judge Richard Ogden moved forward a citizen’s petition to bring a grand jury to investigate District Attorney David Prater. At its core, it is a heaping helping of the same medicine that David Prater has been dishing out around Oklahoma for the last 14 years he has been in office.

Oklahoma has long been one of the greatest incarcerators on the planet and we do not have the lowest crime. OK County, being the largest county, drives that number for the entire state. David Prater is one of the single humans most responsible for our mass incarceration problem. His office could seek alternatives or advocate to not incarcerate people for whom it does not serve the public interest or safety. For an overwhelming number of people suffering from mental health, addiction, poverty, and other related issues, he does not do this and that leads directly to our over-incarceration problem and problems at the Oklahoma County Jail.

While the initiative petition and grand jury will have a scope limited to Prater’s efforts to undermine the commutation and clemency hearings of the Julius Jones death row case, this is only one of many instances of Prater using his time, energy, and power to target political enemies or pursue a warped sense of justice.

Nick Singer
Nick Singer. Guest opinion columnist. (provided)

Here is a brief listing of the more outrageous attempts Prater has made to target his political enemies. 

After the arrest and conviction of political consultant, right-wing radio host, and recent Jail Trust appointee, Chad Alexander for cocaine possession, Prater discovered a trove of evidence he later used to charge State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister for coordinating with a dark money group. After dragging many education groups through the mud, people resigning their positions, and a protracted PR battle, Prater dropped all the charges.

Prater was accused by his own private investigator of going on a witch hunt against criminal justice reform advocates like the ACLU and Oklahomans for Criminal Justice reform. Despite no evidence of a crime or wrongdoing, Prater investigated groups whose advocacy he disagreed with. This effort led to nothing more than bad press for the District Attorney.   

Despite years of concerns about the conduct and finances of EPIC Charter Schools, David Prater failed to take action and ultimately stepped aside to allow the State to pursue the case. So many people have kicked the can down the road while the owners of EPIC have made millions, possibly illegally, while delivering mediocre education outcomes. Prater is one of them. 

In addition to Prater’s targeting the Pardon and Parole Board, he simultaneously went after the Jail Trust with a grand jury investigation. Long opposed to its creation, instead of getting with the program and trying to find a path forward, he wants to construct a legal time machine and undo something he didn’t like in the first place. The Jail Trust has its issues, but the Jail also had issues under the previous operator, the Sheriff. It seems like who runs the place isn’t the real problem. 

In each of these, Prater uses his vast and powerful prosecutorial discretion to target political enemies with threats of prosecution or absolve political allies of accountability.

David Prater has a role to play in the Julius Jones case. He can state his case at the Pardon and Parole Board like other legally recognized parties. He can publicly state his opinion no matter how disturbing, inaccurate or ridiculous it might be. Instead, he uses the power of his office to bully, intimidate and cast doubts on the entire process and promptly has it thrown out by the Supreme Court. This serves no one and certainly not any sense of justice.

This petition is an attempt to finally check his unaccountable power. It is a chance to find out why Prater is wasting public resources trying to get people disqualified for having opinions on the Pardon and Parole Board. We deserve to know why he chooses these things while he has other far more pressing issues.

We have serious issues with our criminal legal system. We incarcerate far too many people and our County jail is an inhumane disaster largely due to over-incarceration. 

Due to Prater’s incompetence and overzealous prosecutions, taxpayers may be on the hook for an even bigger, $300M new jail as is being discussed now. We are leaving many reforms and efforts to decarcerate on the table because we have a criminal legal system unwilling to abandon its failed ways. David Prater has many other things he could be focused on that directly relate to public safety much more so than attacking his perceived enemies. He should spend his energy there.

Editor’s note: Free Press welcomes guest opinion pieces that focus on issues in the Oklahoma City metro and that offer propositions for what to do about those issues. If you have an idea, pitch it in a short, simple email to editor at this domain.

Last Updated October 28, 2021, 12:01 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor