Stillwater News Press

September 24, 2010

OUR VIEW: Respect our judicial system

Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — We implore  those rushing to speculate and spread gossip about recent grand jury indictments to stop and take a deep breath.

The multicounty grand jury hearing testimony in Oklahoma City this week has handed down two indictments. They won’t be opened until 2 p.m. Monday. A lot of hurtful and damaging statements can be passed around coffee shops and posted anonymously on Internet forums between now and then.

The truth is you, your friends and neighbors don’t know who has been indicted. And you know what people say about assuming …

No matter whose names are announced, the fact remains the procedure is following the judicial process we as Oklahomans and Americans have adopted and accepted in this country. The mayor has told a state newspaper he knows his name is on one of the indictments. There are two indictments. An indictment is a charge, not a conviction.

The characterization of this entire grand jury process as a witchhunt is a slap to the men and women who voluntarily served on that grand jury. And the oft loudly vocalized notion that all Mayor Nathan Bates’ public woes are somehow the behind-the-scenes work of some evil shadow government hell-bent to destroy his political career for some fuzzy reason is simply ludicrous.

Bates’ acquisition of an economic development grant from a program the city helps fund was the focus of the grand jury session. Oklahoma State University said Bates received the money because he is a student with an idea and that the money was not from the city’s funds. Bates, who appeared with a public defender and testified before the grand jury this week,  responded Thursday to the issuance of the sealed indictments this way:

“I'm sorry Stillwater, this term in office has been surrounded by malicious scandal from vested interests who care little for our actual city. We have wasted more time and money trying to ‘create’ issues that I'm guilty of rather than fixing real problems. I hope that all of Stillwater is able to recognize the ingrained corruption and will rebel against this outright attack on our political system.”

Outright attack on our political system? That’s a pretty broad brush with which to paint the OSBI agents who investigated this ordeal, the district attorney whose commitment to our judicial system is to uphold the law, the grand jurors who left their homes to sit in a courtroom day after day and hear from witnesses they’ve never seen before.

We will know Monday exactly who has been indicted - and who has not. And until a time someone is convicted they will remain innocent, as seen through the eyes of our legal system. Until a time someone is acquitted they will be a defendant once those indictments are unsealed.

It’s time our community stopped pointing fingers and making accusations. It’s time we show our legal system the respect it deserves. And it’s time Mr. Mayor, that you stop blaming everyone but yourself for your troubles that have brought a glaring spotlight to a tremendous city you were elected – twice – to represent.