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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Oklahoma County District Judge Richard C. Ogden signed an order Friday allowing the signature-gathering to begin on a rarely-used citizens’ petition to impanel a grand jury.

Proponents have 45 days from Friday to gather 5,000 signatures or the petition becomes “null and void” according to the order.

“We have 45 days but we really believe that it will only take a couple of weeks to gather that many signatures,” Jess Eddy told Free Press Saturday. Eddy is one of the five activists who signed and submitted the petition on October 6.

The purpose of the grand jury would be to investigate Oklahoma County DA David Prater with the possibility of removing him from office.

There is no provision in Oklahoma law for a district attorney to be removed by impeachment. A grand jury is the way of removing a DA. In such cases, another DA in the state would be brought in to conduct the grand jury.

Advocates of the petition believe that Prater has committed enough violations of the public trust to warrant his removal now rather than waiting for the next election or the end of his term if he decides to not run again.

District attorneys nationwide go through seasons of unpopularity and popularity according to the cases they are prosecuting.

But, Prater’s choice to press terrorism charges against the most active people who were involved in the May 30, 2020, Black Lives Matter – George Floyd protest has been a permanent tipping point for some. It has been a lasting source of bewilderment and anger against Prater since.

And, Prater’s attempts to attack any advocacy of Julius Jones and certain members of the Pardon and Parole Board have added even more questions about Prater’s suitability of office by some segments of Oklahoma County’s population.

Signatures sought

The group of five activists who submitted the application started gathering signatures only a few hours later Friday after the order was signed.

Saturday midday, signatures were being gathered at Elemental Coffee in Midtown. More signature-gathering is planned at the Justice for Julius Art Show at Forma Optics + Art Saturday evening.

And, a new website to provide a central connection for petition drive information and recruiting volunteers was published Saturday afternoon at: removeprater.com.

Free Press visited the coffee shop location Saturday afternoon and talked to two of the five organizers: Hannah Royce and Jess Eddy as well as persons who signed the petition in the few minutes we were there.

“We need 5,000 signatures and we’re pretty confident that there is substantial will in this community get it done,” Jess Eddy told us.

“Since May 30 [BLM protest] we’ve really seen a degradation in the district attorney’s treatment of people in our community, from the protesters who were charged with terrorism to the attacks he’s put against Julius Jones and increased efforts by his whole office to incarcerate people who don’t need to be incarcerated,” Eddy continued.

Eddy said that he and others believe that Prater’s behavior warrants a grand jury investigation into his “abuse of power.”

Shelby Koch walked in and quickly came to the table where the petition was and signed.

“I think David Prater has definitely abused his office, not only in proceedings around Julius Jones but also seeing that Black Lives Matter protesters were charged with crimes of terrorism, and it’s just, it’s a gross abuse of office,” Koch told us.

But, the perceived excesses of Prater go beyond Julius Jones who is on death watch with an execution countdown underway.

“Aside from Julius’s case, we know that there are many more acts that DA Prater has carried out — injustices against our community. And so we know that that reaches far and wide beyond supporters of Julius Jones,” said Royce.

Reversal

For the advocates who filed the petition, the week has had several twists and turns.

The version that was approved by Judge Ogden Friday was an amended petition. The original one was denied Tuesday with the Judge writing that it “does not contain reasonably specific identification of areas to be inquired into.”

But the amended petition was much more narrow in its modified demand for a grand jury which Judge Ogden acknowledged.

The difference between the initial petition and the amended petition was enough for Ogden to sign the order. The differences he cited were:

  • “The Amended Petition’s only grounds are to seek a bill of action for removal of D.A. David Prater from office …” pursuant to Oklahoma statutes.
  • “By no longer seeking an indictment for crimes or torts claims framed as crimes, the analysis of the Amended Petition does not trigger the defenses of sovereign and prosecutorial immunity, the pre-requisites of the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act, or lack of jurisdiction.”
  • The brief argues that Prater is not “subject to removal by impeachment although a duly elected office holder.”

Accusations

The new list of accusations now has none of the supposed crimes that were included in the first petition. The new and shorter list is illustrated in 25 paragraphs giving specific examples intended to establish that Prater has engaged in:

  • “Gross Partiality in Office
  • Opression in Office
  • Corruption in Office
  • Willful Maladministration”

Read the entire Amended petition:

Amended-10.20.21

Free Press will continue to report developments in this rare process of a citizens’ petition calling for a grand jury.


Last Updated October 25, 2021, 11:49 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor