Report: Former Mayes County anti-drug unit head facing criminal indictment was disciplined previously for alleged meth use

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Former Mayes County deputy Brett Mull is pictured in this photograph from 2004, when he was a Cherokee Marshal, alongside his K-9 partner. Courtesy/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

The former head of Mayes County’s drug interdiction unit who is now facing a possible federal indictment for allegedly using meth stolen from evidence had been disciplined years earlier for allegedly testing positive for meth, an investigation by The Frontier has found.

Both the district attorney’s office for Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties as well as Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed knew about the previous allegations against the deputy, Lt. Brett Mull, 47, of Pryor, before he was promoted to the head the county’s drug interdiction unit, according to court documents and interviews.

Reed fired Mull in July. Reed said in a press release that an investigation by the District 12 Drug Task Force found that Mull had taken drugs from evidence for his own personal use.

Last week, the FBI filed a criminal complaint in federal court alleging Mull had misused his position to obtain and use meth.

On July 3, Mull consented to a search of his home by members of the District 12 Drug Task Force, who were acting on a tip, the complaint alleges. Investigators found opened OSBI evidence submittal envelopes that had previously contained meth seized during Mayes County law enforcement investigations.

According to a court affidavit, Mull confessed to removing the envelopes containing meth from the Mayes County Criminal Interdiction Unit, which he supervised, for his own use.

“This is a betrayal of trust and make no mistake about it, I have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and will not tolerate it from anyone I employ,” Reed said in a July 11 press release. “I took an oath to put away criminals and I pledge to do that no matter where I find them. These actions are in no way a reflection on the many dedicated, hardworking men and women who work for the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office.”

Mull’s attorney, William Widell, Jr., declined an interview request on Mull’s behalf.

This is not the first time Mull has been accused of using meth or dishonesty as a law enforcement officer, records show.  In late 2004, Mull tested positive for methamphetamine and was disciplined by the Cherokee Nation’s Human Resources Department and the Marshal’s Service, following an investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was  part of a K-9 team for the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service at the  time. 

As a result, he was suspended for 30 days without pay, put on restricted duty for at least a year and was declared ineligible for the BIA’s special law enforcement commission, according to internal Cherokee Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs documents, although he could have been fired.

Mull went from the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service to the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office in 2010. He briefly left the sheriff’s office in May 2014, but returned in March 2015, records show. Less than a year after returning, he was promoted to head of the sheriff’s office’s Criminal Interdiction Unit — a new division created by Reed to spearhead anti-drug operations and specializing in undercover drug operations, managing and forming confidential informants, surveillance and intelligence-gathering.

Court transcripts from 2016 show that Reed and First Assistant District Attorney R. Brian Surber were aware of the Cherokee and BIA investigation into Mull’s alleged past drug use prior to being promoted to head the CIU, though both told a judge that the allegations against Mull had been unsubstantiated.

Mull was responsible for numerous drug-related and other arrests during his time in Mayes County, but was also involved in the fatal shooting of a man who had been placed in handcuffs at a Pryor motel in January 2013, though it was an off-duty Salina officer who was with Mull at the time who fired the fatal shots, according to the OSBI. Mull and the off-duty officer were later cleared of wrongdoing by former district attorney Janice Steidley’s office, as the man, 29-year-old William Perneau, who Reed said was connected to the Irish Mob, had allegedly managed to retrieve a gun from his pants and fire a shot at the officers before the officer returned fire.

Since Mull’s firing in July, at least three Mayes County felony drug cases in which he was listed as the arresting officer were dismissed by the district attorney’s office shortly after his firing was announced, court records show. In one of those drug cases, a hearing that occurred about two weeks before Mull’s firing was rescheduled after a lab report for the drugs in the case could not be found, records show.

Although the reasons for the dismissals are not given, Reed said it is likely that Mull’s case has or will be the basis for some cases to be dropped, but he did not have an exact number.

Under Oath

In 2016, Pryor defense attorney Misty Fields, who is now running for district judge in Mayes County, brought up the issue of Mull’s credibility in court. Fields’ client was a man who had been shot by law enforcement in Mayes County the year before, after Mull and another officer made a traffic stop in which Fields’ client was a passenger.

The man had allegedly pointed a gun at his own head before running to a steep embankment overlooking the river below Pensacola Dam. Backing law enforcement officers shot the man before he fell down an embankment onto the rocks below. Though he survived, he was charged with two misdemeanors — carrying a weapon unlawfully and obstructing an officer.

Fields challenged the legality of the stop and sought from the sheriff’s office documented cases in which Mull had been dishonest.

In a pretrial motion hearing on Oct. 17, 2016, an assistant district attorney told the court that the DA’s office had requested “Giglio material” attached to Mull from the sheriff’s office, but had received a letter back stating that no such material existed for Mull. Giglio material, named after the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Giglio v. United States, is any information about a witness, most often law enforcement officers, that could impeach his or her credibility or truthfulness as a witness, and must be turned over by the prosecution to the defense.

During the hearing, Fields called Reed to the stand to testify. under questioning, Reed told the court he had investigated claims stemming from Mull’s time at the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service prior to Mull leaving the sheriff’s department in 2014, including talking to officials with the Marshal Service, according to a transcript of the hearing. Before Mull returned in March 2015, Reed said he asked the district attorney’s office their opinion on Mull’s credibility.

Both Surber, who was at the hearing for the district attorney’s office, and Reed said in court that the information about Mull was unsubstantiated. Surber told the judge his office was unable to get a copy of the investigation’s findings, but he was personally able to review it and drafted a memorandum to the sheriff’s office providing an analysis of the material.

The specific allegations against Mull were not mentioned in open court, and after reviewing the legal analysis provided by Surber to Reed, the judge ruled that the material was not relevant to the Mull’s truthfulness.

However, images of the full report of the investigation’s findings were later posted online by the Microscope of Truth blog, an anonymously-authored blog often critical of law enforcement in Rogers and Mayes counties.

The Frontier independently verified the authenticity of the 2005 document, which shows the Cherokee Nation’s human resources department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Law Enforcement Services conducted investigations into Mull’s alleged drug use.

Unlike the analysis of the material on Mull by the district attorney’s office, the report states the allegations against him were substantiated by the Cherokee Nation Human Resources department and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Law Enforcement Services’ Internal Affairs Division.

Mull, according to those investigations, had tested positive for meth.

The Report

Cherokee Nation human resource employees told investigators that Mull had been randomly selected for a urine drug screening in late 2004, and employees had attempted to contact him for a week before finally contacting Mull’s supervisor to get him to take the drug test, the report states.

Mull’s drug test showed five times the cutoff level for methamphetamine, the report states. Mull, whose subsequent appeal of the human resources department decision was denied, responded by saying that he had helped take down a working meth lab three days before taking the test, which may have resulted in the positive test. Mull also told investigators that he had been sick and was taking over-the-counter medication that could have resulted in a positive result, and questioned whether the lab doing the testing had switched his sample with another, the report states.

However, investigators later found that the meth lab takedown Mull mentioned had actually occurred 10 days prior to the test — far longer than the period meth usually stays in an individual’s system — and secondary exposure would not account for the level of meth that showed up in his system, according to the report.

In addition, none of the medication Mull had been taking would show up as methamphetamine in the test, investigators wrote.  Mull also signed a form stating that the sample had been sealed security tape with his initials on them.

The tribe’s human resources department suspended Mull for 30 days without pay based on the test, and a subsequent appeal by Mull was denied. The investigation by the BIA for conduct unbecoming an officer, which was turned over to the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Review Board, was unanimously upheld by the board.

According to the plan of action for Mull from the review board, the incident would affect his ability to testify in federal court — where many Cherokee Nation Marshal cases are tried — though it would likely not affect his ability to testify in state court, according to the plan of action. 

“As a K-9 officer his range of duties will have to be narrowed which can be accomplished with strategic planning,” the July 29, 2005, plan of action states, and Mull’s duties would be restricted to only presentations, community walk-throughs and requests for K-9 assistance by other officers.

The plan also required Mull to submit to regular drug testing and to train back-up K-9 handlers. At the end of one year, if there were no other positive drug tests or disciplinary concerns, management would consider removing the restrictions, the report states.

When shown the document by The Frontier, Reed said he had never seen it before, but said he had reviewed some documents about Mull while doing his own investigation before Mull left in 2014.

Mayes County Sheriff Mike Reed. Courtesy/MAYES COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Reed said he had heard the case had been reopened at Mull’s request at some point, though he did not know when, and the allegations against Mull were found to be unsubstantiated. Reed also questioned why, if the allegations were substantiated, would Mull have only received a 30-day suspension for testing positive for meth.

“It was my understanding they reopened the investigation … and went back and he was exonerated,” Reed said. “He was on the ground 30 days and he was put back to work, so my question to them … was ‘if the guy was doing meth and you all believe he was doing meth, why did y’all put him back on the road? Did you send him to the doctor, did you get him cleaned up, are you re-testing him, or what was going on?”

But, Reed said, he was never provided the actual report by the BIA or Cherokee Nation. So before Mull returned to the sheriff’s office in 2015, he turned over his investigation to the district attorney’s office and asked for an opinion.

The investigation was headed by Surber, a former Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agent and attorney prior to being named as second in command at the district attorney’s office, Reed said. Surber’s investigation concluded that Mull’s positive test result was likely the result of him taking down working meth labs, Reed said.

“That was taken to my legal, the district attorney, and they looked at it, they went back … Brian Surber was the one who headed that up, and they felt like there was nothing there to substantiate it,” Reed said. “They felt like he was good to go. I asked them ‘because of this in his past, is it going to be a hinderance, is it something we need to look at? How do you feel about it? When I worked with him, he worked great, he had never done anything but worked, with a little attitude some of the time. And with their blessing, I hired him back.”

Surber did not return phone messages from The Frontier.

When considering Mull to head the CIU after being rehired, Reed said, he felt like he had done enough due diligence on Mull and could trust his work — he had thus far proved to be a hard worker, reliable and a talented investigator.

So there was no hesitation in appointing Mull to head the new interdiction unit, Reed said.

“Not after the investigation I had done into it and what the district attorney had told me,” Reed said. “I relied on his (Surber’s) opinion of — is this plausible they go in and do a meth takedown and then they test positive. He guaranteed me because of his experience at OBN that that was normal.”

In addition, Reed said, Mull had passed three random drug tests since he returned to the sheriff’s office in March 2015.

“It ain’t like we just turned our heads. I feel like we more than did our due diligence,” Reed said.

So when a tip came in earlier this year that Mull had been stealing meth from evidence and using it, and a quick investigation substantiated that, Reed said he was floored. He felt betrayed.

Reed said he immediately recused his office from the investigation into Mull, which was handled by the District 12 Drug Task Force before being turned over to the FBI.

There were no obvious signs that Mull was using drugs, Reed said, and the only thing Reed said he had noticed was about a month beforehand, Mull seemed distant and they had talked about some family issues he was having.

“What Brett did was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. And you just go ‘I can’t believe that. Really?’” Reed said. “It’s so off the wall.”

Reed said he still struggles to understand why Mull would do such a thing.

“I don’t believe Brett was strung out on methamphetamines his whole life at all. Everybody would have seen that, known that and realized that. And there’s no way he could have passed those (drug) tests,” Reed said. “When you look at the facts, when he comes back to work and does fine for years and everything’s great for years, and he’s getting drug tested at random, my mind goes to this – what happened here to that all of a sudden made you start doing this?”

Reed said he thinks the punishment for Mull should be prison.

“My hope is he gets some time in prison,” Reed said. “And that is exactly what I will tell them if they call me as a witness. I think the needs to be held to account, just like anybody else is. Period. He did wrong, he needs to answer for it.

“As far as this department goes, we’re going to do everything we can to be transparent, to be above board, to do stuff with integrity,” Reed said. “Have we had people who have made bad decisions? Yes, and we deal with them immediately. We will not tolerate it.”

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Clifton Adcock

Senior Staff Writer

A veteran investigative reporter who has covered eastern Oklahoma for more than 15 years, Clifton joined The Frontier in April 2017. A native of southeastern Oklahoma, he has covered numerous issues from criminal justice to politics for publications including the Tulsa World, the Oklahoma Gazette, and Oklahoma Watch. Clifton holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Clifton can be reached at clifton@readfrontier.com. Follow him on Twitter @cliftonhowze
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