Former President Pro Tem of Oklahoma Senate Convicted of Bribery
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 05, 2012|
OKLAHOMA CITY—Today, a federal jury has found former Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem MICHAEL STEVEN MORGAN, 57, of Stillwater, Oklahoma, guilty of bribery, announced Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. According to evidence at trial, Morgan, an attorney, accepted payments disguised as legal fees from a business that owned assisted-living centers in exchange for favorable treatment in the legislature.
“The sale of political influence by an elected official is simply not acceptable,” said U.S. Attorney Coats. “Public service is a public trust. Corruption betrays that trust and strikes at the heart of our republic. Citizens must have confidence in honest, fair, and ethical governmental leadership. This confidence crumbles when a public official chooses to put his own personal financial interest above the needs of the people. As I said when I announced the charges in this case, when an elected official decides public policy based on secret payments instead of on what is best for their constituents, they abandon this country’s core principle that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. Morgan was the president pro tem of the Oklahoma State Senate and in a unique position of responsibility to all citizens of Oklahoma. I hope the jury’s verdict shows a lawyer-legislator that they cannot hide behind the cloak of legal fees when accepting illegal payments.”
Evidence at trial showed that Morgan took 12 $1,000 bribe payments in 2006 and 2007, disguised as legal fees, from Silver Oak Senior Living Center. Evidence showed that Silver Oak had been at odds with the Oklahoma Department of Health, which was attempting to impose regulations on assisted-living facilities. In exchange for the bribe payments, evidence showed that Morgan authored Senate Bill 738, which became law at the end of the 2007 session and helped Silver Oak by lifting some of its regulatory burdens.
The jury found Morgan not guilty of conspiracy and certain mail fraud counts. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on one count of extortion and other mail fraud counts against Morgan. The government will determine by next week whether to retry him on these counts.
On the bribery count, Morgan faces a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A sentencing date will be set by the court.
The indictment also charged lobbyist William Andrew Skeith, 53, of Edmond, Oklahoma; and Oklahoma City attorney N. Martin Stringer, 71. All charges against Skeith were dismissed by the court and the jury found Stringer not guilty of all charges.
“We certainly respect the entirety of the jury’s verdict and the rulings of the judge,” said U.S. Attorney Coats. “I commend the hard work and dedication of the prosecution team and agents who have worked on this case. This case demonstrates the ongoing commitment of both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to holding accountable any public officials who abuse their positions for personal gain.”
These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott E. Williams and Vicki Zemp Behenna.
Reference is made to court documents for further information.