An ex-reserve police captain in Bartlesville charged with embezzlement is being represented in court by an ex-Washington County judge who resigned amid abuse of power and embezzlement accusations, court records show.
Jerry Lee Kelley Jr., the former captain over the Bartlesville Police Reserve and Explorers program was charged on Monday with three counts of embezzlement of state property and one count of embezzlement. Court filings show he is being represented by Curtis DeLapp, a former judge who spent years on the bench before resigning last year following reporting by The Frontier and a state Supreme Court investigation into DeLapp’s alleged abuses of power.
Kelley Jr., 48, was with the department for 16 years and spent more than 10 years in charge of the Police Explorers program. Court records show he was charged Monday, taking $1,750 from the program and transferring it to his personal account in 2015 and taking $121.07 from the program to pay for “Dish Network Services” in 2016, and using a Explorers Program debit card in 2018 to buy “food, drink, and tobacco” at two Bartlesville convenience stores last year.
He’s also accused of taking $358.03 from the account earlier this year while under suspension from the program to “organize and pay for a party” for the Bartlesville Police Reserve, court records show. He has pleaded not guilty.
A court filing shows DeLapp entered the case as Kelley’s attorney on Tuesday, about seven months after he resigned as a judge while under investigation from the state Supreme Court for allegedly abusing his power as a judge to incarcerate multiple people without a hearing, attorney or bond.
DeLapp did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
DeLapp, who was in the middle of a re-election campaign at the time of his resignation, said in his resignation letter that he was prioritizing his family over his re-election bid. His wife posted on Facebook that DeLapp was concerned that if he was found guilty by the state Supreme Court he would lose his retirement.
The Frontier reported in 2018 that DeLapp had ordered people held in jail for direct contempt of court, a tactic rarely used by judges that allows them to place someone in jail for up to six months without a bond or a hearing.
One woman named Randa Ludlow was ordered released from jail by the Oklahoma Supreme Court last March after she had been placed in jail by DeLapp for allegedly talking and being disruptive in his courtroom. Chief Justice Douglas Combs, in a petition he wrote against DeLapp, accused the judge of having backdated a contempt order in Ludlow’s case in order to justify her detention.
DeLapp, Combs wrote, had not filed the “contempt court minutes” as required by law when he ordered Ludlow to jail.
After oral arguments for the state Supreme Court last March about that case, DeLapp allegedly called his court clerk and asked her to retrieve Ludlow’s case file, Combs wrote.
DeLapp, Combs said, told his clerk “not to look at the files” so she would not “get involved.”
DeLapp was seen on surveillance video looking at the files, unable to find the missing “contempt court minutes,” Combs wrote. DeLapp then left and later called his clerk to claim he had found the missing file that he had allegedly written in November 2017 when Ludlow was first jailed.
DeLapp then used “ambiguous language,” Combs wrote, in order to mislead the Oklahoma Supreme Court into thinking the document was original and not backdated.
“(DeLapp) in fact created the document while alone in his office on March 2, 2018,” Combs wrote.
When DeLapp resigned he agreed to never again seek appointment or election as a judge in Oklahoma, but was not required to surrender his bar license — court records show DeLapp signed his “entry of appearance” document in Kelley’s case with his Oklahoma Bar Association number.
The address DeLapp used is from the office of Nowata-based attorney Todd Cone. A representative of Cone’s office said DeLapp did not work in the building but was associated with the facility.
When DeLapp resigned last year, he said he was doing so “with a heavy heart but a clear conscience.” Prior to become a judge in 2003 he had served as an assistant district attorney for 12 years, he wrote in his letter.
“There is no place I would have rather spent my career than Washington and Nowata Counties,” DeLapp wrote. “I am so grateful to have worked alongside some of the finest judges, legal professionals, law enforcement professionals and county officials in Oklahoma.
“While I am stepping down, I leave proud of the difficult work we have accomplished and the progress we have developed for our community and legal system, specifically the Run the Streets program and the 11th Judicial Drug Court.”
Run the Streets is a youth outreach program DeLapp was heavily involved in.
When DeLapp’s penchant for using direct contempt orders to jail people was discovered last spring, an attorney filed a motion noting several other instances, including one where a woman was ordered jailed for six months for allegedly leaving sunflower seeds on a courtroom bench.
That woman was eventually released from jail but court records show she was made to continue appearing in court for more than two years on the contempt order.
About two months after resigning as a judge, several checks written by DeLapp using public money were questioned during a Washington County Building Commission meeting.
DeLapp apparently wrote at least three “questionable” checks out of the Building Commission fund, District Judge Russell Vaclaw (a member of the commission) said during the meeting.
Vaclaw, who is overseeing the Kelley case DeLapp is now involved in, said DeLapp wrote multiple checks out of the Building Commission Fund, including a check for nearly $400 to Rib Crib, one check for $164.10 to Walmart and another for nearly $4,800 to replace a stenotype machine that had been destroyed by water damage caused by a malfunction air conditioning unit.
None of those checks had been approved by the committee nor paid for items the building commission was involved in, Vaclaw noted.
DeLapp reimbursed the county for the $395.67 spent at Rib Crib, according to an assistant district attorney who attended the building commission meeting. He told the commission that Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan notified DeLapp about the discrepancy, and the former judge appeared at the DA’s office a day or two later with an envelope containing cash and personal checks that had been written by courthouse employees to help pay for the meal.
It’s unclear if DeLapp had reimbursed the county for the other two checks he had apparently written, and Vaclaw discussed the idea of paying for an audit to be done of the Building Commission account in order to determine if there was other missing money.