OKLAHOMA CITY — The Department of Corrections has been juggling at least one high-profile inmate because of some confusion at the State Pardon and Parole Board this week.
The Pardon and Parole Board has been tangled in controversy after allegations that Board members were holding meetings in which inmate parole was discussed, in violation of state law.
It allegedly happened during a so-called “secret docket” where inmates were granted early placement on a parole docket by board members, in a process the board calls “Pre-Docket Investigation.”
The allegations came to light after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater sent the board a letter notifying them that the practice was a violation of the state Open Meetings Act.
Prater believes the Board was also over-stepping its authority to parole certain offenders, those convicted of 85 percent crimes.
D.A. David Prater confirmed Tuesday he is pursuing an investigation into criminal charges against board members.
News Channel 4 has learned that the Pardon and Parole Board may have also made some illegal changes to the status of some inmates whose parole has been called into question by the investigation.
Fifty-one Oklahoma inmates were individually listed in Prater’s Aug. 8 letter to the Pardon and Parole Board because their cases were discussed during this Pre-Docket Investigation.
Patricia Spottedcrow is one of the 51 inmates who came before the board in a Pre-Docket Investigation.
Spottedcrow is a mother of four with no prior felony convictions.
She has been a poster child for unfair sentencing laws in Oklahoma.
In 2010, Spottedcrow was charged with felony drug distribution for selling $30 of marajuana in Kingfisher; the judge sent her to prison for 12 years.
Earlier this year, the Pardon and Parole Board granted Spottedcrow parole on the condition that she spend 120 days in a community corrections facility.
The Governor signed off on the conditions of Spottedcrow’s parole.
Spottedcrow’s attorney, Laura Deskin, said there was absolutely nothing secretive about her parole process.
However, Spottedcrow found out last week that the terms of her parole were changed by the Pardon and Parole Board because of the ongoing controversy.
The Department of Corrections confirms Spottedcrow’s offender status was changed to “Parole Recommendation withdrawn” last week.
Spottedcrow was in the middle of her 120 days when the Pardon and Parole Board made the abrupt change to her status, apparently causing her to be sent back to prison.
“Now she is just being jerked around by the system,” Deskin said. “She was determined by the Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor to not be a danger to society.”
Tuesday prison guards loaded up Spottedcrow and transferred her from Hillside Community Corrections in Oklahoma City back to Eddie Warrior State Prison in Taft because of the change in her parole status.
“So, to the Department of Corrections, she couldn’t be in the general population,” Deskin said. “Friday she was put in this lock-down facility where she was fed through a slot on a tray. Patricia did nothing wrong. It’s just sad and it’s unnecessary and I feel it’s very cruel.”
In another bizarre twist, Tuesday as Spottedcrow was being transported back to prison, her parole recommendation status changed again.
Within an hour of News Channel 4’s inquiry, Spottedcrow’s status changed to “Parole Recommendation Suspended.”
The Department of Corrections will now transfer Spottedcrow back to the community corrections facility in Oklahoma City.
The transfer back to Hillside Community Corrections is scheduled to be complete by Wednesday morning.
According to Pardon and Parole Board Deputy Director J.D. Daniels, there are seven offenders who have had their status changed as the results of this ongoing investigation.
Daniels said the board chairman enacted a moratorium on offenders who were granted early placement by a board member as part of a Pre-Docket Investigation.
Daniels explained that the change will effectively “freeze” these inmates in the system.
However, Daniels was not aware Spottedcrow had been transfered to Eddie Warrior Prison or that she is scheduled to be transfered back to Hillside.
Daniels confirmed the following seven inmates have had their recommendations suspended: Easker Brooks, Rocky McKinley, Patricia Spottedcrow, Richard Sipe III, Wesley Gabelt, Ronald Skinner and Stephen Chancellor.
According to the board, Chancellor has since been placed on the Sept. 2012 parole docket at his regular scheduled date.
News Channel 4 contacted the Governor’s office regarding the board’s authority to change an offender’s status without notifying the offender and without a vote by the board.
A spokesperson for Gov. Mary Fallin said their office was not aware of the status change.
The spokesperson indicated the Governor would look into the matter but did not have any further comment.
The spokesperson did not call back with any additional information.