McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

November 26, 2012

Judge rules on text messages in drug court case

McALESTER — A judge has ruled that text messages allegedly sent in 2010 by  then-District 18 Assistant District Attorney Michael Miller to then-District 18 Drug Court Coordinator Angie Marcum can’t be used against them in an upcoming jury trial.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorneys General Charles Rogers and Megan Tilly, who are prosecuting the case, have now appealed the judge’s ruling  to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, contending that the trial judge erred in his ruling.

The action comes in the wake of a ruling by District Judge Joe Sam Vassar, of Bristow. Vassar, who is the district judge for Creek, Okfuskee and Okmulgee counties, was appointed to preside over the case.

Vassar issued the Nov. 4 ruling in the form of a written pre-trial order in the case in which Miller, Marcum and former Pittsburg County Special Judge William H. Layden are charged with conspiracy in connection with a state probe into District 18 Drug Court. The drug court covers Pittsburg and McIntosh counties.

While the case had been scheduled to go to trial in December, the legal wrangling leaves that in doubt.

Vassar’s order covers alleged text messages sent between Miller and Marcum in May 2010.

Marcum was the drug court coordinator at the time. Miller was the assistant district attorney assigned to work with the drug court, while Layden was the judge assigned to work with the drug court on a regular basis.

Prosecutors are contending in their appeal that Vassar erred on the Nov. 6  written order granting the motions of Miller and Marcum to suppress the text messages.

Judge Vassar had overruled a similar motion by Layden to suppress the information in the text messages between Miller to Marcum, presumably because of the argument Layden had no standing to act in the matter, since it concerned text messages between the other two defendants.

“In the present case, both of the participants in the texting, defendants Miller and Marcum, had a reasonable expectation that the texts would be private and furthermore have standing to urge a motion to suppress,” Judge Vassar said in his written order.

“As to defendant Layden, his motion to suppress must be overruled,” Vassar said.

He also indicated he’s aware the introduction by the state of evidence from the text messages regarding Layden may also impact Miller and Marcum.

“The court is troubled by the effect the introduction of this evidence  might have as to the two defendants,” Vassar said. He said at trial the court will have to carefully consider the relevant state statutes.

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