The Frontier

Supporters of Bob Bates ran into two obstacles heading into his arraignment Monday on second-degree manslaughter charges: They were drowned out by a street preacher and blocked from carrying signs into the courthouse.

About 30 people stood quietly outside the Tulsa County Courthouse toting signs that read: “Families behind the badge. We support Bob Bates!” They declined to speak to media, and over their silence, a preacher yelled “Repent!” at his now-captive audience.

<a href=””><img class=”wp-image-710 size-large” src=”×768.jpg” alt=”Supporters of Robert Bates, the former reserve deputy charged with second-degree manslaughter, gather Monday prior to Bates’ arraignment. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier” width=”640″ height=”480″ /></a> Supporters of Robert Bates, the former reserve deputy charged with second-degree manslaughter, gather Monday prior to Bates’ arraignment. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Robert Bates, a former reserve Tulsa County deputy was charged with second-degree manslaughter earlier this year after he shot and killed a man during a botched undercover gun sting. The group hoped to take the signs into Bates’ hearing, but they were stymied at the courthouse entrance by none other than Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who told them they could enter — but only if the signs stayed behind.

It was a whirlwind day. So many supporters, opponents and reporters attended the hearing that deputies placed media members in the jury box. In most cases, such appearances are routine hearings held between a preliminary hearing and a trial. Bates pleaded not guilty, and tentatively has a trial date of Feb. 8.

The exodus from the courtroom after Bates was arraigned was so massive that District Judge James Caputo had to pause for a few minutes before resuming court.

And, since the hearing happened so fast, most everyone — except for Bates and his supporters — quickly shuffled downstairs to the Board of County Commissioners meeting, where the debate over paying legal fees for Sheriff Stanley Glanz was about to begin.

More than three months since Bates, a reserve deputy volunteering on the undercover Violent Crimes Task Force, shot and killed Eric Harris, the ongoing story still has almost daily twists and turns.

“Everything’s clashing,” said Marq Lewis, the leader of We The People said following Bates’ hearing. The grassroots group gathered more than 6,600 signatures to impanel a grand jury to investigate possible corruption in Glanz’s office.

<a href=””><img class=”wp-image-711 size-large” src=”×768.jpg” alt=”Marq Lewis, founder of We The People Oklahoma, talks to the media following Robert Bates’ arraignment Monday. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier” width=”640″ height=”480″ /></a> Marq Lewis, founder of We The People Oklahoma, talks to the media following Robert Bates’ arraignment Monday. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Minutes before his scheduled appearance in front of District Judge James Caputo, Bates and his legal team emerged from a fifth-floor elevator and entered the courtroom. Members of Bates’ family were also seated inside Caputo’s courtroom.

Deputies inside locked the door, briefly barring supporters, opponents and reporters alike, most of whom had fresh memories of Bates’ invisible courthouse hearing weeks earlier. <strong><a href=””>(In June, Bates and his attorney, Clark Brewster, appeared about 30 minutes before Bates’ scheduled preliminary hearing, waived it and then exited the courthouse before most of the interested parties had even arrived.)</a></strong>

<a href=””><img class=”wp-image-712 size-large” src=”×768.jpg” alt=”IMG_6461″ width=”640″ height=”480″ /></a> Robert Bates enters the courthouse on Monday before his arraignment. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Bates’ pleading was almost perfunctory, but there was another question that needed answered. Caputo, who said in a court disclosure that he served as a deputy at TCSO from 1993-1999 before becoming a judge, told Brewster and prosecutor Eric Jordan that he would not recuse himself from the case.

Caputo’s daughter also works at the Sheriff’s Office as a civilian employee, records show. The Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to recuse from cases <strong><a href=”″>”in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” or if a judge’s relative could have a potential conflict or interest in a proceeding. </a></strong>

Before Bates entered his plea, Caputo invited the Assistant District Attorney Eric Jordan and defense attorney Clark Brewster to comment on whether he should recuse from the case.

“The state has no concerns about this court’s ability to be impartial,” Jordan said, noting Caputo’s “long-standing reputation” in the community.

Brewster said he spoke with Bates about whether he knows Caputo and “at best he might have had a glancing introduction to you from time to time.”

“The defendant has absolutely no concerns with your ability to be fair and impartial,” Brewster noted.

Caputo noted that he left his job as a sheriff’s deputy “some 22 plus years ago.” He did not mention his daughter’s employment with the sheriff, though he did disclose it in a document filed in the case.

“I’ve never shied away from a single case yet. … I feel that I am not only qualified but I am the best person to do it,” Caputo said.

Bates and Brewster quickly left the courtroom. Most everyone else who filed out after Bates scurried downstairs, where the Board of County Commissioners voted (again) to allow Glanz to hire outside attorneys and pay them with county funds.

Glanz and two of his attorneys (Meredith Baker and Terry Simonson) were at Monday’s meeting, though technically speaking, only one of the commissioners was there. John Smaligo was present, but Michael Willis attended on behalf of Karen Keith and Vicky Adams appeared on behalf of Ron Peters. Peters and Keith were both out of town Monday.

County commissioners had first approved the contract on June 29 between Glanz and the firm of McDonald, McCann, Metcalf &amp; Carwile, saying that their expenses (as much as $265 per hour) would be paid out of the sheriff’s office fees account. County officials say that account is funded by money collected through fees (such as process serving) rather than a direct tax, because many have objected to Glanz fighting the public inquest with taxpayer money.

Keith announced last week that commissioners would revisit the contract, but no change was made Monday after commissioners heard from assistant district attorney Doug Wilson, who said he believed the contract was legally sound.

Glanz has repeatedly said publicly that he would welcome a grand jury investigation but he has taken numerous legal steps to avoid it. Following Monday’s meeting, Simonson said that the public has yet to hear “the sheriff’s side.”

Last month, a judge ordered a grand jury to be impaneled July 20 after We The People Oklahoma, the grassroots group founded by Lewis, collected 1,600 signatures more than the 5,000 necessary to launch an investigation of the sheriff’s office.

<strong><a href=””>Their efforts came following months of stories and leaked documents alleging that Bates, a fishing buddy of Glanz and campaign contributor, had his training records falsified, and that others there were pressured to allow him free reign within TCSO.</a></strong>

That July 20 date is presently in doubt. Glanz attorneys first argued that the signatures were collected improperly. When they lost that battle, they moved their argument to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who will hear the case Tuesday.

“The sheriff follows the laws strictly,” Simonson said Monday. “He’s just asking that others do the same.”

But it will take time for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to come to a decision, which may not leave enough time to impanel a grand jury before the July 20 deadline.

“We’re just preparing,” Lewis said. “We’re hoping the referee would see it and uphold the ruling … and the grand jury would still convene. I believe people want to see the truth to come out with this process. It’s been a people’s movement.”