A two-page anonymous letter — circulated by Sheriff Stanley Glanz to a shadowy subgroup of Freemasons — calls citizens who gathered signatures for a grand jury petition “a very small group of people being manipulated, brainwashed” by an attorney suing the sheriff.
The two-page letter isn’t signed, but in a recent deposition, Glanz spokesman Terry Simonson acknowledged he wrote the letter and provided it to the sheriff, federal court records state. Simonson had earlier denied knowledge of the letter when asked by The Frontier.
Glanz circulated the letter in early July to members of the Royal Order of Jesters, a secretive, invitation-only social club affiliated with the Akdar Shrine.
The letter states the grand jury petition by We The People Oklahoma is about “jackpot justice” following the shooting of Eric Harris by Robert Bates rather than reform of the Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s about a tragic, accidental shooting of Eric Harris during an undercover illegal gun buy,” the letter states. “If you live by the sword, you may die by the sword.”
Bates, 74, is a longtime friend and former campaign manager of Glanz. He was serving as a volunteer reserve deputy on an undercover drug unit when he fatally shot Harris after an illegal gun buy.
Bates, who said he mistook his gun for a Taser, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty. He is awaiting trial.
We The People Oklahoma gathered more than 6,800 signatures to impanel a grand jury to investigate the shooting, Bates’ training and related issues in the Sheriff’s Office.
A 2009 internal affairs investigation found supervisors at the Sheriff’s Office pressured subordinates to falsify training records and approve Bates as an advanced reserve deputy.
Glanz waged an unsuccessful court battle against the grand jury, claiming the group had failed to follow state law in circulating its petition. The 12-member grand jury — eight men and four women— begins meeting Monday at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
The undated letter is titled: “The reasons for the sheriff to resist impaneling a grand jury is to understand who and what’s behind it.”
“It’s not about Stanley Glanz who fired no shots that killed anyone but did fire 3 senior managers who were responsible for various policy violations. … It’s about money,” the letter states.
The letter claims that the grand jury process is “not about the ‘will of the people.’ It’s about a very small group of people being manipulated, brainwashed and used” by Tulsa attorney Daniel Smolen.
Smolen has filed numerous civil rights lawsuits against Glanz and the county alleging racial discrimination against black employees and medical neglect of jail prisoners. His most recent lawsuit against Glanz is on behalf of Harris’ family.
The letter refers to Marq Lewis, founder of We The People Oklahoma, as “just the front face” of the group and misspells his first name as Marc.
In a Frontier story last month, several clergy leaders praised Lewis for his peaceful leadership of We The People while in several other cities, protests against police using deadly force turned violent.
Lewis called the letter “extremely condescending” toward him and others in the community who gathered signatures for the grand jury.
“Actually, I thought it was laughable because it was written like a 2-year-old child. I’m very surprised that an intelligent person who claims to be an attorney would write something like this.”
Lewis said he also had questions about the Royal Order of Jesters.
“I am more concerned about him passing this information onto this group because he feels like they are influential. … It’s amazing that he is so detached from reality and they are part of this elitist club. This all goes to the same narrative: Bob Bates, friends and cronyism.”
Glanz said he was made aware of the letter by a friend and that he obtained a copy of it and handed it out to fellow members of the Royal Order of Jesters at a recent meeting. Glanz said he learned who wrote the letter after he passed it out but declined to say who the author was.
Glanz said at the time of the Jesters meeting, he did not know who had written the letter but that he distributed it because “it talks about a plaintiff’s lawyer that is paying for all this” grand jury process.
“It lays it at the feet of Dan Smolen, but he is not the only one there is. … People want me out of office because I am the only one who stands up to the city.”
Smolen flatly rejected the letter’s claims that the grand jury petition is a ploy to help him win judgments in civil lawsuits over the jail. He said he has not paid for any part of the grand jury process and did not meet Lewis until after the petition process was well under way.
“What’s really happening is there are attorneys who are friends with the sheriff who are reaping the benefit of all of these people filing lawsuits against the jail. They’re the only ones getting paid,” Smolen said.
The county has had multiple chances to address chronic problems with the jail’s medical and mental health care but Glanz has refused to do so, Smolen said.
“Their inability to admit fault even in the most basic situations and fix the problem is what has put them in this spot, not a grand jury, not Marq Lewis and not Dan Smolen.”
An investigation by The Frontier found the Sheriff’s Office has spent more than $800,000 of public funds in the past four years on legal fees to defend civil rights lawsuits. Much of the money came from a fund intended to pay for jail operations.
Nearly all of the the money went to attorneys at two Tulsa law firms: McAfee & Taft and Brewster & De Angelis. Both law firms have deep connections to Glanz.
Attorney Reuben Davis has been a reserve deputy for Glanz since the inaugural class of reserves in 1991. Davis, formerly with McAfee & Taft, now works at another Tulsa law firm.
Davis is also a sheriff’s appraiser, a patronage job appraising foreclosed properties sold at sheriff’s auctions. According to his Linked In profile, Davis, 71, is also president of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Association and a member of the sheriff’s SWAT team.
Attorney Clark Brewster, of Brewster & De Angelis, served as Glanz’s campaign manager in 1988 and has done legal work for the sheriff for many years. Brewster also represents Bates in his criminal case.
Two of Brewster’s relatives are also sheriff’s appraisers, records show.
Glanz and the ‘top secret’ Royal Order of Jesters
The letter is attached to a motion filed in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Glanz.
The lawsuit was filed by relatives of three inmates who died after their serious medical needs were allegedly neglected in the jail: Gregory Brown, Lisa Salgado and Gwendolyn Young. Relatives of Bridget Revilla, an inmate who nearly died after twice attempting suicide, also joined the lawsuit.
The motion by Smolen states that attorneys for the prisoners’ families recently obtained the letter.
“On information and belief, the document was distributed by Defendant Sheriff Stanley Glanz to fellow members of the Royal Order of Jesters. The Royal Order of Jesters is (a) fraternal organization of the Freemasons / Shriners,” the motion states.
When asked by The Frontier, Simonson said he wasn’t aware of the letter but confirmed Glanz was a member of The Royal Order of Jesters.
Glanz said he’s been a member for a long time, but could not recall the exact number of years.
“It is part of the Shriners. The ones who do all that work in the hospitals,” Glanz said. “They (Jesters) give of their time and money, just like my reserve deputies have. That is the kind of friends I have.”
However tax records show the Jesters chapter Glanz belongs to performs no charitable work, spending all of the money raised on unspecified social functions for group members. Nationally, the Royal Order of Jesters has been marred by federal investigations and sex scandals.
John Rosell, a director of the Akdar Shrine in Tulsa, said the Jesters are “a subsidiary unit” of the Akdar Shrine. He said members must be Freemasons and then a member of a masonic organization such as the Akdar Shrine to be considered for invitation-only membership in the Royal Order of Jesters.
“To be a member of it, they have to ask you. You can’t just go join,” Rosell said.
He described the group as “pretty top secret” and said he didn’t know who the members were.
“I’ve been a Mason for 39 years and I don’t know who they (Jesters) are or where they meet and I don’t know what they do at their meetings.”
The IRS has granted non-profit status to at least three Jesters’ groups in Oklahoma, with the Tulsa chapter taking in far more money than chapters in Muskogee and Norman. The Tulsa chapter’s latest financial report states the group took in $154,000 in membership dues and spent nearly all of that on “meetings and social programs to promote brotherhood and friendship.”
In 2011, the latest year membership figures were disclosed, the “Tulsa Court” of the Royal Order of Jesters had about 150 members, according to its financial report.
Nationally, the Royal Order of Jesters has been involved in controversies including allegations of sex tourism with underage girls during fishing trips in Brazil and parties featuring prostitutes in several states.
The Jesters’ slogan is “Mirth is King” and its crowned mascot is the billiken, a comical charm doll known as the “God of Things as They Ought to Be.” Many of the group’s rituals revolve around William Shakespeare and parties often involve a play about the Bard’s death.
In a 2012 tax dispute with the state of Indiana, the Jesters’ executive director stated: “The purpose of the Jesters is spreading the gospel of mirth, merriment and cheerfulness, promoting fellowship and fraternity among members, and extending good cheer and assistance to the general public, which furthers the Masonic principles of brotherly love, belief and truth.”
In that tax case, International Royal Order of Jesters’ Executive Director Alex Rogers was questioned about any public benefit the group provides.
“Mr. Rogers admitted that the Jesters ‘don’t hold ourselves out and publicize ourselves as givers or as charitable benefactors,’ ” the ruling from the Indiana Board of Tax Review states.
The ruling rejected the group’s claim for non-profit status for a 5,000-square-foot Jesters museum in Indiana.
According to a website that tracks the group, the Royal Order of Jesters “is a secret fraternal group made up of invited Shriners who, in turn, must be Master Masons.”
The group’s 22,000 members include many judges, politicians and law enforcement officials, states the website, operated by journalist Sandy Frost.
“The ROJ and Shriners enjoy the benefits of being classified by the IRS as both nonprofit charity and fraternal groups,” the site states. “The Jesters’ motto is: ‘I am a Jester. What I see here, What I hear here, Shall stay here, When I leave here.’ “
Jesters’ parties are known as “books” and occur over three or four-day weekends, such as the Jesters “All Tennessee Bash” this past weekend in Nashville. Events begin at times ending in threes, and involve “Dickel Dew” whiskey tastings and a tour of Nashville honky tonks.
Parties for some Jester groups feature prostitutes, gambling and copious amounts of liquor, according to news accounts and court records in several states.
A 2009 story in the Buffalo News detailed a federal investigation into the Jesters that resulted in guilty pleas from a retired state Supreme Court justice, his former clerk and a retired police captain for taking prostitutes across state lines to Jesters events.
In 2011, a human rights group sued the Georgia-based operator of a Brazilian fishing tour company on behalf of four underage girls from Brazil. The operator was prosecuted in Brazil for allegedly luring girls as young as 13 to work on fishing boats where they were forced to perform sexual acts with American clients, including 19 members of the Royal Order of Jesters.
Sheriff’s letter at issue
Smolen and attorneys for the sheriff are arguing over whether the letter is relevant to bring up in Simonson’s deposition. After Smolen began questioning Simonson about it during his deposition on July 21, Simonson “admitted that he drafted the document and that he provided it to Sheriff Glanz,” the motion states.
“Counsel for Sheriff Glanz objected to any further inquiry about the document on relevancy grounds and the parties participated in a telephone hearing before Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson,” Smolen’s motion states.
The motion argues that the letter is relevant for discovery in Revilla’s case and similar civil rights cases against Glanz because it labels the lawsuits “frivolous.” The underlying allegations of the jail lawsuits are that the sheriff showed “deliberate indifference” to prisoners’ medical care and lives and viewed their claims as frivolous.
“There are longstanding, systemic deficiencies in the medical and mental health care provided to inmates at the Tulsa County Jail. Sheriff Glanz (has) long known of these systemic deficiencies and the substantial risks to inmates like Plaintiffs, but (has) failed to take reasonable steps to alleviate those deficiencies and risks,” the motion states.
In motions filed in the Revilla case and others, Glanz’s attorneys have denied the allegations that the sheriff was indifferent to inmates’ medical and mental health needs.
Lewis said the letter distributed by the sheriff also shows indifference to Harris’ death, implying he is at fault for Bates’ actions.
The letter’s reference to Harris’ death “by the sword” is taken from Matthew 26:52, an admonition by Jesus to avoid violent conflicts.
While working as an aide to Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Simonson made similar comparisons about Tulsans killed in shootings in a 2013 column about the city’s crime rate.
“It’s hard for the community to be concerned about the number of homicides when it’s gang members killing gang members. … If the gangs want to kill each other, we certainly don’t want to stop them,” he wrote.
Frontier Senior Staff Writer Kevin Canfield contributed to this report.