CNHI News Service
ENID, Okla. —
A hearing is scheduled for an Enid News & Eagle motion to unseal the
records in a dismissed felony perjury charge filed against Enid attorney
The News & Eagle’s motion to unseal the case is scheduled for a hearing
before Grady County District Judge Richard Van Dyck on July 30 in the Grady
County Courthouse in Chickasha.
The felony perjury charge was filed in Major County on May 17 and sealed the
same day by Presiding District Judge Ray Dean Linder. The News & Eagle was
denied access to the records. No hearings, notice of sealing the case or
announcements of its removal from public view were given.
The News & Eagle filed a suit June 26 to intervene in the case and have the
In his motion to intervene and unseal the records, News & Eagle attorney
Michael Minnis argued the peremptory sealing of the felony perjury case
violated the newspaper’s rights under the Oklahoma Constitution, the
Oklahoma Open Records Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The felony perjury charge against Edwards was dismissed Monday pursuant to a
motion filed by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who was
appointed to prosecute the case after Major County District Attorney Hollis
Thorp recused his office from the matter.
Van Dyck ordered the case dismissed Monday and recalled a warrant in the
case. Van Dyck was appointed to preside over the case by Oklahoma Supreme
Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor on June 28.
Major County Court Clerk Shauna Hoffman faxed a copy of the motion and order
to dismiss the felony perjury charge to the Enid News & Eagle Monday. When
asked Tuesday for a copy of the original affidavit filed in the case,
Hoffman said “Judge Van Dyck said the only thing I can give you is what I’ve
given you so far.” Asked for a copy of the order sealing the case, Hoffman
replied, “The only thing I can give you is what I gave you yesterday.”
Hoffman said there is a written order sealing the case, signed by Linder and
file stamped by herself on May 17. Hoffman said there is no written gag
order in the case.
Van Dyck said the case remains sealed under Linder’s original order of May
The News & Eagle requested a copy of the order sealing the case, but was
denied by Van Dyck because Linder filed the order sealing the case under
Sources indicate the original perjury charge, and the sealed court records,
stem from a contempt of court hearing on a finding against Edwards in
Public court records show Edwards was representing the petitioner in a
divorce proceeding in Major County before Associate District Judge Tim
Haworth. Opposite Edwards was Enid attorney Katresa Riffel, who represented
the respondent in the divorce hearing.
According to court minutes filed in the case, Haworth found Edwards in
direct contempt of court on Feb. 7 for “continuously disobeying the court’s
rulings and for attacking the credibility and integrity of respondent’s
attorney, Katresa Riffel.”
The court minutes also state Edwards was “being disrespectful toward the
court,” and that he told Riffel “he was going to kick her ass and appeal the
Court minutes filed by Haworth state he consulted with Linder on Feb. 7.
Haworth notes: “Discussed the topic with Presiding District Judge Ray Dean
Linder; Eric Edwards is not entitled to a jury, only to be heard by the
Edwards appeared before Haworth on Feb. 23 for a hearing on the contempt
Court minutes from that hearing state “Eric Edwards addresses the court,
states it was a heated hearing and still disputes that he said what
respondent’s attorney said was stated in court and apologized to the court
for his conduct in a heated divorce hearing.”
Haworth ruled and ordered payment of a $500 fine.
Edwards subsequently filed two motions to disqualify Haworth from presiding
over the divorce proceeding. According to an April 18 entry, Enid attorney
Stephen Jones entered the case to make a “special appearance” at the motion
for disqualification hearing. That motion was denied.
On May 17, the same day the felony perjury charge was filed against Edwards,
court minutes show an in-chambers meeting took place with Jones, Edwards,
Riffel and Major County Assistant District Attorney Danny Lohmann, the
state’s prosecutor who filed the perjury charge.
Following that in-chambers meeting, Linder disqualified Haworth from
presiding further over the divorce case. Linder also sealed the perjury case
that afternoon, the contents of which remain hidden from public view.
News & Eagle Publisher Jeff Funk has raised questions as to why Linder and
Jones would go to such great lengths to seal the records of a contempt
hearing and divorce case.
“We don’t know what’s in the case because it’s sealed,” Funk said. “What are
He said the newspaper is continuing with its motion to unseal the case
because the manner in which it was sealed gives at least the impression of
partiality and undue secrecy.
“It looks like preferential treatment for Edwards, an attorney, to have a
criminal charge against him kept confidential even though charges against
all other adults are handled in open court,” Funk said. “Our objection is to
the secrecy of this case, and we want the court to declare this secrecy,
this special treatment, unlawful and wrong.”
Court records in the divorce case are available HERE