Yelton acquitted, Henderson guilty on 8 counts in TPD corruption trial

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Updated: 8/25/2011 12:32 am Published: 8/24/2011 1:08 pm

After all of the accusations of corruption, after dozens of people released from prison or had their charges dropped, it all came down to Wednesday and the verdicts for two Tulsa police officers.

Officer Jeff Henderson was accused of 53 counts but found guilty on eight, including lying about informants to bust drug dealers and lying under oath.

Henderson was acquitted on all meth, marijuana and cocaine charges.

Officer Bill Yelton was acquitted on all eight counts involving civil rights violations, coaching and threatening witnesses.

As family of Officer Jeff Henderson leave the courthouse, their hearts are shattered.
"I think this sends a very loud message,” says U.S. Attorney Jane Duke of the Eastern Arkansas District.

After 23 hours of deliberations, the judge’s clerk read the verdicts. It was not guilty over and over until count 39.

“It takes a courageous man to face the federal government, in times like these, these are difficult charges,” says Henderson’s attorney Robert Wyatt, IV.

Henderson was found guilty on the eights counts connected to just two cases.

The jury believed Henderson lied about an informant to bust an ecstasy dealer.

Carah Bartel pleaded no contest and was given a deferred sentence.

She agreed to testify against her boyfriend William “Eli” Kinnard but she backed out on the stand. Kinnard’s charges were dismissed before the corruption investigation.

The jury found Henderson guilty of violating Kinnard and Bartel’s civil rights.

Ronald Crawford, 36, also a drug felon, was busted by Henderson in 2006.

In a search warrant officers found a gun, which felons cannot posses, and cash stashed under a sink.

Crawford testified he was in Texas when Henderson said he saw him at his Tulsa home while doing surveillance for a search warrant. The prosecution called in his daughter’s principal and bank employee where residency documents and sign in log sheets were shown to the jury.  The defense argued Crawford often traveled back and forth from Texas to Tulsa.

The prosecution refuted with a cell phone tower records that showed Henderson’s calls did not register on a tower that would put him at Crawford’s house.

That case cost Henderson six counts of perjury and two civil rights violations.

FOX23 news tried to contact most of the 12 jurors who either had no comment or could not be reached.
Henderson plans to appeal his convictions.

"Jeff Henderson is a courageous man," says Wyatt. Obviously he is disappointed but he's happy the jury listened to him and believed him on the other charges,” said Wyatt. "The family is pleased the jury listened to Jeff, they heard the evidence and they returned a verdict and we intend to appeal,” says Wyatt.

Henderson’s partner Bill Yelton is acquitted and a free after serving 13 months in jail.  A judge had denied his bond more than a year ago as he awaited this trial because he was accused of threatening the prosecutions key witness with a gun.

Yelton has been on the force for 26 years and has a decorated career.

"The acquittal says exactly what we have been saying all along and that is Bill Yelton did not do of these things and he is a top cop in this country,” says Yelton’s attorney Scott Graham.

The jury found Henderson and Yelton not guilty on every other charge; in each case someone was released from prison or had charges dropped.

Still prosecutor Jane Duke is convinced those she helped release from prison because of the corruption trial deserved their freedom.

"I don't have any qualms that where we have serious questions about the integrity of the judicial proceeding that convictions were set a aside,” says Duke. “I think good law enforcement work would have kept a lot of these people behind bars where they probably should have been."

Duke calls today a victory.

"We did get guilty verdicts so it's not disappointing at all in that regard. I think that any time you go to trial against law enforcement officers you have an uphill battle,” says Duke. "I think when you have witnesses that admit to criminal conduct, admit to doing a lot of illegal things and lying under oath. You've got an uphill battle and we knew going into this."

Henderson faces five years in prison. His attorney asked the judge to release Henderson until he is sentenced. However, that judge could not make the decision, the motion will need to be taken up with the judge over the case federal judge Bruce Black of New Mexico.

Henderson has been in jail for 13 months and if he stays in jail until sentencing he could get credit for time served. A sentencing date has been not been set.

Prosecution’s key witnesses former ATF Agent Brandon McFadden made a plea deal; in exchange for his truthful testimony he could received a shorter sentence.

Retired Tulsa police Officer JJ Gray also pleaded guilty and in exchange for his cooperation; he could receive probation.

He did not testify in the Henderson and Yelton case.  

It is unknown if the verdicts will effect the plea deal.  

Sentencing dates for Wells, McFadden, Gray and Henderson have not been set.

Five civil suits have been filed against the City of Tulsa and TPD.

TPD released this statement about the Yelton/Henderson verdict:

"The Tulsa Police Department fully supports the decision of the jury in this case. It is with deep regret, that we see the actions of a few have damaged the image and reputation of the men and women of the Tulsa Police Department. These courageous officers remain committed, on a daily basis, to serve and protect the citizens of Tulsa. 

From the onset, all levels of the department have cooperated with the investigation, identified any weaknesses in policy and procedures, taken action to correct deficiencies, and strengthened operations to reduce the possibility of any future misconduct.

The Tulsa Police Department remains committed to equal justice for all citizens, including its own officers. Indeed, with the implementation of a zero tolerance policy, we demand that our officers hold themselves to an even higher standard.

At this time, the Internal Affairs Division will begin an investigation to determine whether any officer involved violated department policies and procedures."

In June, retired Corporal Harold Wells was convicted on five corruption charges in a separate case.  On Monday, Judge Black dropped a gun charge against Wells, however he denied a motion for acquittal and releasing him before sentencing. He faced a maximum 15 years in prison and now faces 10 years.  Two of his co-defendants were acquitted on all counts. Officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham are on paid suspension while TPD investigates the case to their jobs back.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

watchdog11 - 8/24/2011 9:10 PM
0 Votes
I certainly don't think all TPD officers are bad, I know quite a few who are really exceptional officers and people, however, just like the good news seldom makes the headlines, while the sick and depraved does, the frequency of corruption trials gives all TPD a black eye that is going to be around for a long time. If these two were the only officers accused and on trial for corruption, I would say sure, not too bad for a force of around 800, but in the past couple of years there have been close to 10 so far, that is a pretty high percentage, there is a major problem somewhere.

dollymama - 8/24/2011 8:01 PM
0 Votes
I am completely lost in understanding what the message is supposed to be in these comments. I think that referencing the race riot in the 20's is a bit dramatic, and the race card has been overplayed. I am particularly intrigued by the comment suggesting that "people will be killed and wives should have spoken up" What are you talking about??? Also, the comment that was made regarding crack dealers having more ethics is a metaphor that makes no sense! Could it be that those commenting these things have a ax to grind due to their own criminal past? Sorry guys, but not every jury is wrong, and prisons aren't filled with the innocent. There are miscarriages of justice, but that happens in an imperfect system. But to make broad generalizations about all police officers and suggest that all are "bad cops" is just not true.

watchdog11 - 8/24/2011 7:59 PM
0 Votes
They got more than I expected, I don't know if any of you remember Travis Ludwig, he was the TPD officer who was caught selling coke out of his cruiser, he got nothing, was allowed to resign and moved to New Mexico, probably a cop out there now. My dad always said where there is smoke there is fire, and how many TPD officers have been up on corruption charges in the past two years? Tells you something, and remember, those of us who own property and pay taxes are paying for these trials, plus, now we have over 30 criminals back out on the street due to these gangster cops, I expect them (Chuck) to put regulations in place now to allow the Department to deal with these "glitches" so the public will never know about them, cause Tulsa is looking pretty bad about now, and they know it.

kindagreywolf - 8/24/2011 5:13 PM
0 Votes
Only in Tulsa if you disagree with someone your ignorant. I followed this straight through and the TULSA POLICE have hampered and intimidated witness straight through. Apparently a Witness against an officer is worth $3 a sheet? No, I have seen the Tulsa Police in action, I will call the Crack dealer down the street as they have more ethics.

missronron - 8/24/2011 3:59 PM
0 Votes
im not here to argue, i dont even know these officers but i imagine the federal goverment knew something. they never just accuse officers for nothing. but if you're happy,im happy! i get to see my friend that henderson lied on and got him two life sentences. now i get to see my friend while he can go lay down! thats whats wrong with tulsa "to much hate"!!!! when will we get pas it?

missronron - 8/24/2011 3:52 PM
0 Votes
i cant believe that as far as we've come we still go backwards to accomidate the state and city rule makers and enforcers. if it had been a regular citizen accussed of these crimes, their family would be in tears hearing "guilty on all charges", let alone the sentencing stage. as in the wells case ive never seen a jury find a peer guilty, only for the judge to dismiss their ruling and start dropping charges. again, its another sad day in tulsa. may the creator bless the less fortunate!!!!!

icare4us - 8/24/2011 3:44 PM
0 Votes
missronron: YOU have peers???

icare4us - 8/24/2011 3:43 PM
1 Vote
Well, I see the criminals are posting. Halleleujah!! Yelton was acquitted. Newsheriff: Do you know how ignorant your post sounds?

missronron - 8/24/2011 3:43 PM
0 Votes
tulsa has reverted back to the days of 1921. tulsa juries send petty crimanals to prison for hundreds of years with minimal evidence but fails the community on this day. this reminds me of the rodney king verdict-no justice. tulsa has had many hendersons since the crack epidemic and im positive its plenty left. everybody better stay inside because this has opened the door for even more innocent people, especially low income, to be wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, and excessively sentenced to prison. im glad my peers made it out of their situation but feel sorry for the people who will have to go through the tulsa judicial system in the future. a big thank you to the the father and daughter who spoke up! we've been telling them for years but they wouldnt even 'listen' to us.

Unwashed Mass - 8/24/2011 3:21 PM
1 Vote
They got away with so much. Need another sting, this one competently done.
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