Asked by presiding Tulsa County judge Rebecca Nightingale if he was pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of willfully violating the law because he was guilty, former sheriff Stanley Glanz paused for a second before answering.
“Yes,” he finally said.
Glanz pleaded guilty to that charge, which involved driving a county vehicle while accepting a $600 a month stipend for personal vehicle use. He pled no contest to a charge of failing to perform official duties for ordering a 2009 report withheld in the aftermath of the Eric Harris shooting by Reserve Deputy Robert Bates last year.
Though some plea hearings involve statements by the defendant before sentencing, Glanz said nothing during the hearing other than answering yes several times to questions the judge asked.
In return for his plea, the former sheriff received a pair of one-year suspended sentences, which run concurrently with each other, as well as a year of unsupervised probation. Nightingale ordered him to pay $7,500 in restitution to the Oklmulgee County District Attorney’s Office to pay for the cost of his prosecution.
The plea did not come as a surprise: Glanz’s attorney Scott Wood hinted last month that a deal between he and prosecutors Rob Barris and Kevin Buchanan was in the works, and then confirmed it to NewsOn6 Friday morning.
Neither Glanz nor his attorney made a statement after the plea, though Glanz’s wife Deborah made several inaudible statements as she left to attorneys. Deborah Glanz is employed by Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel’s office and the sheriff’s office employs Yazel’s wife, Monica Blendowski.
The plea was made at a discovery hearing Friday in front of Nightingale and came about a year after efforts to remove Glanz from office began.
The former sheriff’s conviction may be one of the few, if not the only, times a public official in Oklahoma as been convicted of withholding public records. The Open Records Act contains criminal penalties for willful violations but that portion of the law is rarely enforced.
The Frontier is suing the current sheriff, Vic Regalado, for alleged violations of the Act after he refused to release video of a mentally ill innate who suffered a broken neck in the jail. While TCSO has released some portions of video, it has continued to withhold other portions as well as incident reports requested by The Frontier.
Other records requested by The Frontier weeks ago — reports that TCSO’s medical contract monitor is supposed to complete — have also not been provided. The Open Records Act requires “prompt and reasonable response” to requests.
Regalado’s office has not filed an answer to the lawsuit, instead requesting an extension of time to answer.
Glanz, who had been sheriff here since 1989, faced public scrutiny for his relationship with Bates after the Harris shooting and a local grassroots group (We The People Oklahoma) collected enough signatures to empanel a grand jury to investigate the 73-year-old sheriff.
After months of legal battles, the grand jury was empaneled and after weeks of testimony, eventually indicted Glanz.
With Bates already in prison, Friday’s plea may be the last notable court appearance tied to the turmoil at the sheriff’s office following the Harris shooting. A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Harris’ estate but could be settled before a trial.
Bates shot and killed Eric Harris in 2015 during a botched gun-buy in north Tulsa, and was later convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison.
Reporters for the Tulsa World sought information on Bates’ history with TCSO, due to his close ties to Glanz. Bates had served as his campaign chairman, donated thousands of dollars to the then-sheriff, gave equipment to TCSO and took Glanz and other higher-ups on numerous vacations.
A section of grand jury testimony was released to the public in February after a transcript was ordered issued by a judge. (Grand juries meet in secret and witness testimony is rarely made public.)
Ironically, Glanz’s desire in 2009 to keep the investigation into Bates secret may have played into his downfall.
Wood had sought to get the charge related to the Bates report — refusal to perform official duty — dropped, claiming it is an internal affairs document not subject to Oklahoma’s Open Records act.
Prosecutors have argued against that, and in the now-public grand jury testimony, it’s clear why. In the 2009 document, Bates is alleged to have received countless benefits as a result of his relationship with the members of TCSO’s hierarchy.
“Now, with my experience with the media, some of the reporters that were calling, I believed in my heart that they knew more than I did about some investigation that had taken place,” former Maj. Shannon Clark told the grand jury. “Otherwise, they’re not going to ask those questions.”
The 2009 Bates inquiry, it turned out, was never turned into an official investigation, something Sgt. Robbie Lillard — who authored the report — testified to the grand jury was called sending it to “dead file.”
Since it was a “dead file,” the report had no Internal Affairs number. So as pressure on TCSO to produce or acknowledge the investigation mounted, the report could not be located by any standard searches, Clark testified.
“There was a record that was produced in a computer, but (Sgt.) Robbie (Lillard) did it on a Word document, not under an Internal Affairs number or assignment. It was like a personal investigation for Undersheriff (Brian) Edwards at the time,” he said.
When the report finally surfaced within the agency, its existence was again swept under the rug, according to Clark’s testimony.
Clark testified to the grand jury that as reporters continued to ask about the 2009 Bates report, he was repeatedly told by Undersheriff Tim Albin that no one could find that specific report.
Glanz’s resignation and criminal charges marked a dark end for his reign at TCSO. Glanz first ran for office in 1989 at 47 and was hailed as a reformer. His role as sheriff ended at age 73 with the agency in disarray.
Glanz’s departure was among several at the agency, which had for years been under the same leadership team.
Albin and Maj. Tom Huckeby were forced to resign by Glanz last May. Clark was fired by Glanz and Capt. Billy McKelvey resigned from office after being demoted by Glanz.
Both Clark and McKelvey have said they believe they were targeted for punishment by Glanz, who, according to testimony, thought they were seeking to come after him.
When Glanz left office, he was replaced as sheriff by Rick Weigel, who had served as a chief deputy and then undersheriff after Albin resigned. Weigel resigned in January, leaving former Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette in charge of the office. She served as interim sheriff until Vic Regalado was elected in April and continues to work for TCSO.