DA files motion for recusal of district judge over donor conflict

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater has filed a motion to recuse District 7 Judge Kendra Coleman after he says she failed to disclose her campaign contributors, even when they were part of a defendant’s counsel.

As part of the Ethics Commission rules and the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are not allowed to accept donations to their campaign more than 180 days before filing to run for judicial office.

Prater says Judge Coleman did just that.

However, the DA says this was not her only violation.

“Not only did [Coleman] begin accepting campaign contributions more than 180 days prior to the start of the filing period for office, [she] has actively concealed the sources of contributions received in a concerted effort to prejudice the District Attorney’s Office,” Prater said in the motion.

According to Prater, Coleman’s Campaign Contributions and Expenditure Report was due January 31, 2019.

To this day, that report has never been filed, even despite reprimands and fines by the Ethics Commission.

DA Prater says Judge Coleman’s deceit doesn’t stop there, she even let these donors influence her in a court case.

Antwon Burks was charged with second-degree manslaughter in May 2017 after his two dogs attacked and killed an elderly woman.

Burks plead not guilty in November 2017 and trial was set for May 2019.

After the originally assigned judge was unavailable due to a different trial, “in what would later appear to be no mere random selection,” Coleman accepted the case.

Prater says, “[Antwon Burks] was represented by an attorney who not only made substantial monetary contributions to [Coleman’s] campaign but also played a significant role in other fundraising activities as well.”

Coleman even went so far as to do things in order to “cripple the prosecution in favor of her benefactor,” such as questioning the accuracy of witness testimony, excluded photographic evidence of the attack, and tried to tell the State how to question the witnesses.

According to the DA’s Office, the defense attorney was on Coleman’s top five individual campaign contributors and a co-sponsor for a campaign fundraiser, and Coleman’s own dog was involved in an attack so severe she was required to pay the other dog’s veterinary bills.

All the while failing to disclose these conflicts of interest to the DA’s office.

When all of this was brought to the State’s attention, they asked for her recusal in the case.

“Rather than approaching the request with the cold neutrality demanded of the judiciary, [Coleman] outwardly displayed its contempt for the District Attorney’s office in the most unusual and injudicious fashion.”

Prater says she even took to her own defense with a PowerPoint to display her impartiality.

During this time, the Burks case was returned to the originating judge, as per the rules of the district.

Both Burk’s defense team and even Coleman herself tried to keep the case under her jurisdiction.

“These circumstances compel one conclusion and one alone – this Court is blatantly and willfully subverting the very provisions put into place by the people when they sought to enshrine within the Oklahoma Constitution protections against corruption of government officials. For each day this Court sits in judgment of parties appearing before it, no one- neither the parties, their counsel, nor the public- can be assured that the decisions being rendered have not been influenced by campaign contributions or other circumstances that this Court is actively endeavoring to conceal.”

There is no word on this time who will preside over the rest of Burks’s trial as the original judge recused herself for unrelated reasons.

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