Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler gave no indication on Wednesday that he intended for his office to recuse from prosecuting a man charged with shooting at Tulsa Police officers, despite statements made by a defense attorney that the case had been “politicized.”
On Tuesday defense attorney Ben Fu, also a Republican candidate for district attorney running against Kunzweiler in the June primary election, withdrew from representing Darius Padillow.
Padillow allegedly fired 10 shots at police officers last November after being told to leave a Tulsa gas station.
Fu withdrew from the case after news reports that Kunzweiler had texted a link to the Padillow case to a KTUL reporter, saying “Ben Fu is representing him. I wonder if TPD FOP knew that before they endorsed him.”
The Tulsa Police Department Fraternal Order of Police had endorsed Fu on Monday — an endorsement that came after more than a year of discord between the police union and Kunzweiler following the Betty Shelby trial.
Fu told KTUL that his “first instinct” was that both he and Kunzweiler needed to recuse from Padillow’s case.
“I find it shocking that a sitting elected official who is currently the lead prosecutor for this county would see fit to politicize a criminal charge that’s currently pending,” Fu told the station. “It’s disappointing that Mr. Kunzweiler would bring something like this up.”
Kunzweiler, in a statement to The Frontier, said on Wednesday that Fu’s withdrawal from Padillow’s case “is between a defendant and his attorney, and has nothing to with how this case or any other case proceeds.”
Fu has argued that Kunzweiler violated a prosecutorial rule against making “extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”
Court minutes show Padillow’s case is set for preliminary hearing on Thursday. Kunzweiler, who has been involved in the Michael Bever trial for weeks, does not represent the state in that case. Court records show Kevin Gray, an assistant district attorney, is the prosecutor of record.
Jerad Lindsey, the chairman of the local police union, told The Frontier he had no issue with Fu’s representation of Padillow, saying that while the FOP encouraged “a vigorous prosecution” of the man charged with shooting at TPD officers, “everyone … is entitled to an adequate defense.”
The primary election for Tulsa County District Attorney is set for June 26. If a runoff election is necessary, it will be held Aug. 28. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.
Kunzweiler is facing Fu and fellow Republican Tammy Westcott. Whoever emerges from that triumvirate will face Democrat Jenny Proehl-Day in November’s primary election.