TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma attorney accused of using his legal practice and law firm as a hub for illegal activity in three different counties will see his case head towards a jury trial, but some of the charges he was indicted on have been dropped.
Thursday, Delaware County Attorney Winston Connor learned he will go to trial in relation to charges that he allegedly intimidated a witness, allegedly traded legal advice and money for sex at two Tulsa area massage parlors, and that he also allegedly worked with a prison gang leader to have a man assaulted for stealing his secretary’s car.
However, one of the biggest charges Connor was facing was thrown out for a lack of probable cause. That charge was an accusation that Connor wanted a prison gang leader to order an attack on another inmate who had his death penalty sentence modified to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors claimed Connor was emotionally attached to the case because a close friend of his barely escaped being murdered, but the friend’s roommate did not. The defense argued and the judge agreed that simply talking about someone and referencing the color of his skin was not enough to prove solicitation of murder, especially when a murder was never attempted or even happened.
Connor’s actions for allegedly supporting prostitution in two Tulsa area massage parlors was already under investigation by law enforcement when he was further dragged into legal trouble by an investigation into drug trafficking at the state’s maximum-security penitentiary in McAlester.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics as well as the Department of Corrections wiretapped a cell phone being used by convicted murderer Slint Tate. Tate, who is serving a life in prison without parole charge for a 1999 murder, was illegally possessing a cell phone that a member of his crew sneaked into prison for him, and from there, Tate was running a gang that has members both in and out of prison. A state agent testified Wednesday that the people on the outside were either Tate’s friends or family or are loyal to Tate for offering them protection while in prison.
Prosecutors allege Connor used his legal expertise to talk in a way that would not directly link him to a crime and told Tate that he would exchange his legal services to get his sentence reduced if Tate would direct his crew in Ottawa County to get back Connor’s secretary’s car that was stolen and beat up the man who did it. In a recorded phone call tied to the tapping of Tate’s phone, Connor is allegedly heard telling Tate to get the car back and “make it extreme”. Investigators would later collect video evidence of the assault on the car thief that Tate’s crew sent to him as proof the deed was done in addition to the thief’s beating being heard in the background of a call being tapped with Tate and his outside prison crew as the car retrieval was underway.
While instructing his crew to attack the thief, Tate told his crew that they needed to do the retrieval and assault so Connor would take up his case. Connor’s defense counsel says Tate is a habitual liar that likes to exaggerate to motivate his crew to carry out jobs for him and make things seem far more dramatic than what they really are.
While the defense insisted on more evidence needing to be presented in the probable cause hearing, Judge April Siebert said prosecutors met their burden of proof for this stage of the process. Prosecutors said all of the experts the defense was requesting testify this week will be presented and were more appropriate for a trial setting.
Connor’s charges related to witness tampering and sex crime charges also had enough probable cause to move forward, but the charge related to Connor making money off of the massage parlors and through prostitution was thrown out because the State of Oklahoma protects the right of a lawyer to be hired as legal counsel of a crime even if it is suspected that the money used to hire them came from a source of illegal activity.
Tate received another 20 years for a meth operation linked to the same cell phone that was tapped and tipped off law enforcement to Connor.
Both sides declined to comment saying they are now preparing for trial where everything will be laid out in full.