OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Democratic state senator from Oklahoma City was convicted Thursday for her role in a bribery scheme in which she was accused of agreeing not to run for re-election in 2010 in exchange for a state job.
Former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich received a one-year suspended sentence that will keep her from serving any jail time. She also agreed never to run again for political office in Oklahoma or to seek employment with the state.
Leftwich waived her right to a jury trial and was found guilty by Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong of one felony count of accepting a thing of value to withdraw as a candidate. As part of a deal with prosecutors, Leftwich will be allowed to appeal her conviction based on the defense theory that she was technically not a candidate for office.
If her appeal is unsuccessful, Leftwich also will lose her retirement benefits because of the felony conviction.
Leftwich was accused of working with former Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, to secure an $80,000-a-year job at the state Medical Examiner’s Office for her so that a Republican colleague of Terrill’s could seek her open seat in 2010. Her jury trial was scheduled to begin next week.
Terrill was convicted in October on a charge of offering a bribe for withdrawal of candidacy. His jury recommended that he serve one year in prison and pay a $5,000 fine. Formal sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20. A judge has allowed Terrill to remain free on a $10,000 bond while he appeals his conviction.
Leftwich declined to speak to reporters after the hearing, but said in a statement: “I am glad to have this phase of the case resolved in a manner which will allow us to get a ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals.”
Prosecutors said they were pleased with the outcome.
“She’s admitted to the basic facts that constitute the wrongdoing. She has been found guilty in a court and has a conviction,” said First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland. “But she has preserved her ability to take an appeal on the issue of whether or not legally she was a candidate.”
Attorneys for both Terrill and Leftwich also have argued that the two lawmakers’ actions were constitutionally protected because they were acting in their official capacity, but Leftwich will not be able to appeal on those grounds.
“From the very beginning of this case, the question has been whether the provision in the Oklahoma Election Code concerning giving a thing of value to a candidate applies to Debbe Leftwich since she did not file to be a candidate under the provisions of the Oklahoma Election Code,” Leftwich’s attorney, Robert McCampbell, said in a statement.
Although Leftwich never filed a declaration of candidacy in 2010, a Democratic colleague, state Sen. Al McAffrey, testified during Terrill’s trial that Leftwich told him she planned to run. McAffrey also testified that he helped coordinate a fundraiser for her race the month before she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.