McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

December 4, 2012

McAlester trial date stricken in drug court conspiracy case

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — A trial originally scheduled for this week in a conspiracy case related to District 18 Drug Court has been stricken until a later date pending a ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

The case involves the conspiracy charge filed against  former District 18 Assistant District Attorney Michael Miller, former District 18 Drug Court Coordinator Angie Marcum and former Pittsburg County Special District Judge William H. Layden.

The three were charged with a felony count of conspiracy in connection with a state investigation into District 18 Drug Court, which covers Pittsburg and McIntosh counties.

Okmulgee County District Judge Joe Sam Vassar issued the ruling  striking this week’s scheduled trial under an agreement from both the prosecution and defense in the case, according to documents filed at the Pittsburg County Courthouse. Vassar was appointed to preside over the trial, scheduled to be held in McAlester.

The scheduled trial has been stricken, or continued, in the wake of Vassar’s ruling that text messages allegedly sent in 2010 between Miller and Marcum can’t be used against them in a jury trial on the conspiracy charge.

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.

Following Vassar’s ruling regarding the use of the text messages, Oklahoma Assistant Attorneys General Charles Rogers and Megan Tilly, who are prosecuting the case, served formal notice of their intent to appeal the judge’s ruling  to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

They are contending Vassar erred in his ruling regarding the use of the alleged text messages between Miller and Marcum.

While Vassar granted the motions of Miller’s and Marcum’s attorneys to suppress the alleged text messages, he overruled a similar motion filed on Layden’s behalf, presumably because of the argument Layden had no standing to act in the matter, since it concerned text messages between the other two defendants.

Meanwhile, in addition to striking the conspiracy trial which had been scheduled to begin in this week’s trial docket at the Pittsburg County Courthouse, all of the pre-trial hearings related to the case were also stricken, according to the judge’s order.

“The parties are in agreement that the interests of justice and judicial economy will best be served by striking previously set hearing and trial dates pending decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals,” Vassar wrote in his order addressing the matter.

It’s not known at this point exactly when the trial date will be rescheduled. Before the trial can be held, deadlines for attorneys to file legal motions and pre-trial hearing dates must also be reset.

“The case will be reset on the next convenient trial docket                                                                                                 following decision from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals,” Vassar said in his order. “Motion deadlines and hearing dates will also be set at that time.”

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