Former Luther councilman accused of stealing copper enters blind plea

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James Richard Smith

LUTHER, Okla. –  A former city councilman in Luther, who is accused of using inmates to steal copper wire, has entered a blind plea on the charges.

In 2015,  James Richard Smith was charged with six counts of copper theft from a tornado siren and one count of engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses.

Sheriff John Whetsel says Smith told three DOC inmates to strip the copper and paid them each $40.

Investigators say Smith sold the copper to a recycling plant for just under $160, meaning he only took home a little more than $30 after paying the inmates.

The damage estimate on the taxpayer’s dime is about $31,000.

Smith is also facing charges for attempting to prevent a witness from giving testimony, according to court records.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Smith allegedly threatened two Luther employees, who are key witnesses in the copper theft case.

The report claims Smith ran one of the state’s witnesses off the road with his vehicle. It also alleges that Smith threatened to kill another witness.

Smith’s attorney told NewsChannel 4 on Monday that Smith entered a blind plea to engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses in two or more counties, entering the premises with intent to steal copper, and two counts of attempting to prevent a witness from giving testimony.

A blind plea is basically a guilty plea without a set sentence, meaning a judge will determine his sentence.

Originally, he was facing nine charges but prosecutors dismissed five of those charges. Smith’s attorney says his client was ‘overcharged’ in the case.

Smith will be sentenced some time later this year.

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