District Judge Curtis DeLapp. Courtesy

A Bartlesville woman jailed for contempt after talking in court is asking the state Supreme Court to release her from jail where she’s been held without a bond since early January.

Randa Ludlow, 19, was a courtroom spectator when she was arrested for contempt last November, according to an application filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The application originally named District Judge Curtis DeLapp, who ordered Ludlow to be arrested, as the defendant though it now identifies the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as the defendant in the case. The WCSO maintains the jail where Ludlow remains held.

The application also mentions other “abuses of power,” identifying at least a dozen other cases where DeLapp allegedly held attorneys, spectators, defendants and even potential jurors in contempt. Court records show a 33-year-old woman named Amanda Allred was ordered to jail in December 2015 by DeLapp and held with a $50,000 bond for leaving sunflower seeds on a bench and floor in the courtroom.

Allred is still appearing in court regularly for reviews of her sentence. When she was jailed, DeLapp ordered her to be held on $50,000 bond — a bond $25,000 higher than the one court records show DeLapp gave Jeffrey Wade, a Bartlesville teacher who was arrested in 2010 and charged with rape for a sexual relationship with a student.

Reached for comment, DeLapp told The Frontier he was reviewing case law on Thursday in anticipation of Friday’s hearing before an Oklahoma Supreme Court Referee.

“I guess they’re saying I was illegally putting people in jail for contempt,” DeLapp said. “So I’m looking up case law to see if I did anything illegal.”

Ludlow, according a brief filed by her attorney, was in the courtroom that day last November as her boyfriend was being arraigned. Ludlow was talking to her boyfriend’s mother when a deputy told her not to talk, according to the brief.

That same deputy later ordered her to leave the courtroom after seeing her strike up another conversation. Ludlow, who was under District Attorney’s Office supervision at the time, left the courtroom and decided to check in with that office.

“She walked up to the courtroom window and gestured to her friend that she was going to go downstairs,” according to the brief. “The same deputy then came out of the courtroom and escored (Ludlow) to Judge DeLapp’s chambers.”

DeLapp, who the brief states was on the bench, left the courtroom and met the deputy and Ludlow. The brief states DeLapp first ordered Ludlow — who had not yet checked in with the DA’s supervision office — to leave the courthouse entirely.

“(Ludlow) tried to advise the court that she had to check in for her probation today and could not leave the courthouse without first doing so,” the brief states.

DeLapp again ordered her to leave the courthouse, the brief states, and when Ludlow again said she had to check in with probation, “Judge DeLapp ordered the deputy to take (Ludlow) into custody and sentenced her to 30 days flat time in the Washington County Jail.”

The brief states Ludlow “blurted out that it hurt” when the deputy placed her in handcuffs. “Judge DeLapp then changed her sentence to 6 months in the Washington County Jail.”

Four days later Ludlow appeared in front of DeLapp for a review of her contempt sentence, records show, and the judge released her from jail and ordered her to pay a $500 fine, a $50 Victim Compensation Assessment and court costs.

DeLapp also ordered her back to court on Dec. 12 and Jan. 9, records show. During the Jan. 9 hearing, DeLapp “noted that (Ludlow) had new charges (speeding and driving under suspension)” and ordered her back to jail to serve “the remaining five months and 27 days.”

Ludlow’s sentence was designated in court records as “flat time,” meaning she couldn’t earn time off her sentence with good behavior.

Direct contempt of court is a severe punishment under Oklahoma law — though the maximum sentence for direct contempt is set at six months in jail, the defendant does not get an attorney, a hearing, or a bond, and must spend the entirety of the sentence in jail.

Josh Lee, Ludlow’s attorney, told The Frontier he believes DeLapp “went too far” in his punishment of Ludlow.

“Direct contempt is a very powerful tool,” Lee said. “I can’t think of many other things where you can just order someone to jail without a trial or a bond or an attorney. That power should be wielded more carefully.”

Lee said that, if anything, Ludlow should have been charged with “indirect contempt” since her final act — gesturing in the hallway — could not have been seen by DeLapp. Lee also said that no “confinement order” exists, an order necessary for someone to be jailed for contempt of court.

Jailed for sunflower seeds
On Dec. 9, 2015, Allred appeared in a Washington County courtroom before Washington County Judge John Gerkin on two traffic tickets for running a stop sign and passing in a no-passing zone. Though she had missed her court date two days earlier, Gerkin accepted Allred’s guilty plea and gave her time to pay the tickets.

However, on Dec. 18, Allred was brought back to court before DeLapp, who questioned her about sunflower seeds that had been left on the floor and one of the courtroom benches on Dec. 9, court records show.

Allred told the judge that on Dec. 9, she did have sunflower seeds in her pocket but did not recall leaving them on the floor or benches.

DeLapp then told Allred that surveillance video from that day had been pulled, court records state, and Allred then told the judge that she was on medication.

DeLapp ordered Allred to be taken into custody for direct contempt of court, set her bond at $50,000 and ordered her to appear back in court 12 days later.

However, after four days, DeLapp allowed her to be released from jail on her own recognizance and to appear in court again on the contempt charge on Dec. 30, 2015.

Allred, court records state, “states she has learned a lesson and will not eat in the courtroom again.”

At Allred’s Dec. 30, 2015, hearing, she presented the court with a list of her medications, and told the judge that her grandmother had recently died. She was ordered to appear in DeLapp’s court again in a week.

At the January 6, 2016, hearing, Allred, who did not have an attorney, pleaded guilty to the direct contempt charge. She was ordered by DeLapp to return in about two weeks for a review of the case.

Court records show the contempt case was tracking behind a related juvenile custody case that Allred was involved in. However, when she failed to show up at a July 7, 2016, review hearing for the contempt citation and the juvenile case, DeLapp ordered a bench warrant issued for Allred.

The next day, when Allred appeared for a different misdemeanor case also being heard by DeLapp — this one for shoplifting and assault — she was taken into custody on the bench warrant, and sentenced to six months in jail and to pay a $500 fine, court records show.

DeLapp continued to hold the contempt case open, though he had temporarily set aside the sentence for it, according to court records.

Through the rest of 2016 and until the end of 2017, Allred continued to appear at the regular hearings scheduled in the contempt case and for her other cases. Until Dec. 12, 2017, when she missed a contempt review hearing, the records state.

A bench warrant was issued and Allred was arrested. She then failed to appear on a cost review in one of her misdemeanor cases on Jan. 9, 2018, and a bench warrant was issued by DeLapp. Allred was arrested and the 6 month sentence for contempt was imposed by DeLapp, to be served as “flat time,” court records state.

She was ordered released on her own recognizance in late February to be admitted a rehabilitation facility.

Debbie Allred, Amanda’s mother, said her daughter had been scheduled to go to a rehabilitation clinic prior to the judge’s order that she be arrested.

“She was supposed to be in rehab the following Tuesday, but she lost her bed there because he would not let her out,” Debbie Allred said. “That’s when he gave her the six months flat for eating the sunflower seeds, which, I don’t understand how he could do that because he had already given her the three months (in 2015).”

Debbie Allred said her daughter is afraid of angering the judge and wants to follow his orders.

“He told her that if she missed her date again, he’s going to give her six years,” she said.

Other cases in Ludlow’s petition accuses DeLapp of abusing his authority by issuing contempt citations against numerous other attorneys, potential jurors, defendants and courtroom spectators.

In one case cited in the petition, DeLapp in 2013 dismissed five felony charges, most of which involved theft of property, and one misdemeanor charge against a man after the assistant district attorney showed up to court eight minutes late.

Court records show that, during the man’s sentencing, the court reporter was sent to fetch the assistant district attorney, who after arriving asked the judge not to dismiss the cases. DeLapp agreed to not dismiss the cases (though records show he had already done so), but cited the assistant district attorney with contempt of court, the petition states.

In another instance, a courtroom spectator was held in contempt in 2014 after muttering something under his breath during court, though the petition states the judge did not hear what was said and had to be told what the man said by an Office of Juvenile Affairs worker who was nearby.

Court records show the man was found to be in contempt for “using foul language” and was sentenced to 30 days jail time, serving only the first two days and then bringing his work schedule back to court for the imposition of the remaining 28 days.

DeLapp then asked the man, who had driven another defendant to court for an appearance, for his driver’s license to get the spelling of his name.

The man said he had left his license at home, and when asked by the judge, said it was not suspended. DeLapp then had a deputy run the man’s name through a law enforcement database and found that it was suspended, court records state. The man was then given the full 30-day sentence to be served as “flat time,” records show.

Other cases cited in Ludlow’s petition include a case where a potential juror was cited for contempt after she brought children from her daycare with her to the courtroom, another potential juror was cited for contempt for saying a swear word, and numerous attorneys being held for contempt of court for being late or failing to show up to court even though in many cases the attorneys had substitute attorneys present.