Stillwater Mayor Nathan Bates says prosecutors accusing him of violating the state’s computer crime act failed to prove their case during his preliminary hearing.
“I feel the exact same way my lawyer stated. The state failed to make a case,” Bates, 28, said after his half-day hearing in Payne County District Court.
Bates said he has received encouraging messages and support from many Stillwater residents since being charged with a felony in September.
Bates also said he hasn’t done anything wrong and he is still using his city e-mail account and laptop computer. The computer and e-mail account are provided for mayoral business. The charge that sent Bates to court Tuesday contends he has used the computer and city e-mail account to promote a personal commercial venture unrelated to his role as mayor.
Payne County Special Judge Phillip Corley heard testimony Tuesday morning and then said he will review evidence and return to court Dec. 20 to rule whether the prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to make Bates stand trial on the felony charge.
Corley said the Dec. 20 date also gives defense attorney Debra Vincent time to file any briefs and share them with the judge and Assistant District Attorney Charles Rogers. Rogers filed two briefs this week.
A multicounty grand jury indicted Bates in September and accused the first-term mayor of violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. Rogers and the grand jury accused Bates of breaching the city of Stillwater’s e-mail and computer policy by using his city laptop and e-mail to correspond about a grant he sought for his corporation, Icon Properties LLC.
Bates received the grant through a program called E-Basic. E-Basic grants help new business owners get start-up capital. The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Innovation and Economic Development at Oklahoma State University and other organizations collaborated to decide which grant applications would receive money.
During Bates’ preliminary hearing Tuesday, Vincent argued the city of Stillwater’s e-mail and computer policies only applied to city employees, not the mayor and city councilors.
Called as a prosecution witness, Stillwater City Attorney John Dorman looked at several of Bates’ e-mails that Rogers submitted as evidence and testified most did not appear to concern city business.
But when Bates’ attoreny questioned Dorman, he testified the e-mail and computer policies did not apply to the mayor and city councilors.
“It applies to city employees only,” he said. When Vincent asked if the mayor and city councilors are city employees, he said, “they’re not employees.”