White-Collar Crime

Partner Tells Federal Jury Work Done by His Law Firm Was Legit, Not Part of a Lawmaker Bribe Scheme

Testifying in a federal bribery case that began this week in Oklahoma City against a former state senate leader who is also an attorney, a former law partner of another defendant in the case said said his law firm had performed legitimate legal work.

“I had no knowledge of any improper actions,” witness Ron Walker told the jury yesterday. He is an ex-partner of defendant N. Martin Stringer, 71, who is accused along with a former state senate president pro tem, Mike Morgan, and the defendant lobbyist of participating in a scheme to funnel $400,000 in bribes to Morgan from three companies while Morgan was still in office, saying the payments to him were fees for legal work, according to the Associated Press and the Oklahoman.

All the defendants are charged with extortion, mail fraud and conspiracy; Morgan is also charged with bribery. They have pleaded not guilty.

Although a number of lawyers at Walker’s firm worked dozens of hours during a four-month period in 2005 for one of the companies that allegedly paid Morgan to watch out for them in the state legislature, Stringer put in only three hours, according to evidence presented at trial.

Meanwhile, Morgan, prosecutors say, did no work in return for the $141,000 he was paid by the company, Dilworth Development Co., which was seeking a permit to build an Oklahoma landfill.

Morgan’s counsel, David Ogle, says he performed legitimate work in exchange for the payments he received from three companies.

Walker told the jury that he believed Stringer had brought Morgan in to work on the Dilworth matter at his law firm. He also testified that he was unaware of what work Morgan did for the firm and that it was not his idea to pay Morgan the $141,000 that prosecutors contend the lawmaker got for his role.

A press release last year from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma provides further details about the case against the three.

A KOCO article published at that time reports that Ogle called the charges against Morgan politically motivated, since it is legal to work as an attorney while also serving as a lawmaker.

“If you read the ethics commission, you can be involved in the legislative process and work as a private citizen,” Ogle told the station. “I do believe … he will be exonerated, and this will be a bad memory.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Once-Powerful Lawmaker On Trial for Bribery re $8K-Per-Month Law Firm Retainer Payments”

Courier Post: “Salema is vague at Bryant trial”

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