While everyone was at work last Friday, daydreaming about their booze-filled Tulsa Tough weekend, one of the more fascinating characters embroiled in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office scandal was in court.
And an interesting thing happened.
Warren Crittenden is an ex-TCSO supervisor who signed an affidavit for the attorney in his civil suit against the sheriff’s office, saying he knew that Robert Bates (the reserve deputy who mistakenly shot Eric Harris in April during a botched stolen gun sting) was not trained up to standards. Supervisors who questioned that training had been transferred out of the reserve deputy program, Crittenden’s affidavit states.
He was one of the supervisors over the reserve program when Bates was training, and some of Bates’ training documents bear his signature. In a leaked 2009 internal affairs document, he was quoted as saying he believed that some documents bearing his signature stating that Bates was ready to serve as a reserve deputy had been forged.
Crittenden was also one of four people charged in February with first-degree murder after a man named Michael Jones was killed in an east Tulsa motel.
As it turns out, Crittenden may not be heading to trial on that charge.
Crittenden’s status as a murder defendant was a major sticking point for the Sheriff’s Office in the days immediately following Harris’ killing. At the time, his name on the affidavit had been redacted and was not publicly known, but sheriff’s office officials were able to trace the document (via the notary symbol on it) to the jail where he was being held.
In the eyes of the Sheriff’s Office, the affidavit’s allegations were essentially meaningless.
Now-fired former public information officer Shannon Clark told me in an interview the week after Harris was killed that the media was being duped by Crittenden, who had been fired years back and was just lashing out at the Sheriff’s Office.
Records including the sheriff’s own 2009 internal affairs investigation would later back up what Crittenden claimed in the affidavit.
Incidentally, when Crittenden was arrested for the motel killing, I requested his personnel file, and was told by Clark that the Sheriff’s Office would not release it to me. After sending TCSO an email containing the section of the open records act that governs those files, Crittenden’s file was sent my way. In it was nothing but more than a decade of commendations. Also, I presume the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t completely disregard tips from their own criminal informants.)
When Crittenden was arrested, he told police that he had been forced to go to the motel and wasn’t an active participant in Jones’ shooting.
On Friday, the other three defendants in that case (Jerome Hardaway, Kendrick Logan, and Dustin Ward) all faced their preliminary hearings, a kind of mini-trial that determines whether a defendant will face a jury trial. (All three were bound over for trial.)
Crittenden, however, waived his preliminary hearing, a move that often signals that a plea deal might be available.
I couldn’t reach his attorney, Brett Swab, but I did speak with First Assistant District Attorney John David Luton, who told me that, while no plea deal had been yet offered to Crittenden, “it’s all on the table.”
“It could, it could,” Luton said, referring to whether a plea deal was possible in the case. “There is no deal at this point, no agreement on what should, could or would happen to him if he does testify, or doesn’t testify.”
Crittenden is an interesting character. When he was arrested last February, and I was fighting with TCSO for his personnel file, I looked back through some old stories and found out he had been a semi-professional wrestler.
An old Tulsa World story detailed how Crittenden, then a detention officer, strolled through the jail like Ric Flair, and that his wrestling bravado helped him connect with the inmates. His background as a wrestler was extensively detailed in this Daily Beast article published right after the TCSO scandal broke.
Now, it’s completely possible that Crittenden goes to trial on the murder charge. After all, by waiving his preliminary hearing, he technically set himself up for a jury trial.
But the odds are that when those other three defendants face a jury, Crittenden will be doing so from the witness stand. We’ll likely find out more June 22, when all four are scheduled to return to court.