A woman whose story was featured in a December series by The Frontier has filed a multimillion dollar federal civil lawsuit against the former Rogers County District Attorney and her husband, alleging they orchestrated a scheme to use her to cause a scandal for Sheriff Scott Walton.
Diana Thurman filed a lawsuit this week in federal court in the Northern District of Oklahoma that alleges former Rogers County District Attorney Janice Steidley and her husband used Thurman and her jailed son as pawns in a scheme to embarrass Walton, whom they viewed as a political enemy.
Thurman’s story was detailed in a three-part series in December by The Frontier, “Rogers County Hustle.”
Janice Steidley declined to be interviewed for that series, but Larry Steidley denied many of Thurman’s claims in an interview. He told The Frontier in an email the lawsuit will be “vigorously defended.”
Thurman’s allegations against Larry Steidley were supported by recorded phone conversations with him that Thurman shared with The Frontier.
Thurman’s lawsuit alleges that she was threatened by Janice Steidley in a 2014 meeting at Claremore Lake in the Steidleys’ SUV, with the former district attorney warning her that jail was a dangerous place, and “people get hurt in jail all the time.” Thurman’s son was in custody at the Rogers County jail for DUI charges and drug court violations stemming from a 2013 collision when he was 26.
Her lawsuit alleges she interpreted Janice Steidley’s comment to mean Thurman’s son was in danger while in jail custody if she did not cooperate with the district attorney’s request.
The lawsuit alleges that both Janice and Larry Steidley asked Thurman to participate in “a plan to set-up the Sheriff of Rogers County… by using Thurman as bait in an effort to manufacture or create a scandal.” As part of the scheme, Thurman alleges in the suit, Larry and Janice Steidley gave “instructions about how Thurman should dress, how she should wear her hair, along with information about the Sheriff’s movements, and possible locations to stage an encounter.”
Along with flirting and taking suggestive photos with Walton at a local rodeo, Thurman alleges Janice and Larry Steidley went as far as asking her to “surprise” Walton (who is married) at a Fort Worth sheriff’s convention and “get him intoxicated, and either embarrass himself, or cause him to be arrested.”
The Fort Worth encounter never happened as planned, and no inappropriate conduct occurred between her and the sheriff, Thurman maintains.
Walton was a vocal critic of Steidley while she served as district attorney for Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties, and was instrumental in a petition drive that resulted in a grand jury investigation of Steidley’s conduct.
While the grand jury’s report ultimately stated it did not find probable cause to indict Steidley or remove her from office, “a review of the testimony and other evidence gathered during the course of this investigation has revealed an alarming lack of respect, civility, and overall professionalism” between Steidley and the law enforcement agencies within Rogers County.
In June 2014, voters in District 12 opted to elect former city attorney Matt Ballard instead of re-electing Janice Steidley.
Thurman’s lawsuit alleges Larry and Janice Steidley’s scheme “exceeded garden variety negligence,” caused her “to live in fear of her life,” and ultimately violated her son’s rights under the due process clause of the federal constitution’s 14th Amendment. As the top law enforcement officials in Rogers County at the time, Janice Steidley’s behavior was “sufficiently outrageous that it shocks the conscience,” the filing states.
Thurman’s lawsuit seeks damages of more than $3.1 million, including at least $125,000 from the district attorney’s office for allegations that it mismanaged the county drug court program her son was a participant in.