OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma state lawmaker is proposing a bill that seeks to punish judges for having sexual relationships with lawyers involved in cases they’re presiding over.
The bill comes as three convicted felons seek new trials because a judge had sexual relations with a prosecutor in their cases.
House Bill 3746, proposed by Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Lowe (D-District 97), is called the Judge Timothy R. Henderson Act, named after the resigned judge who admitted to having a relationship with a prosecutor in his court room.
“I’ve proposed a bill that would make it illegal to have a sexual relationship with their prosecutor who has a pending case in your court room and also a lawyer who has a pending case in your courtroom,” explained Lowe.
According to court documents, Oklahoma County Judge Tim Henderson and one of the prosecutors on a trial, an assistant district attorney, were having a “secret sexual relationship” that lasted for about two years.
The revelation is what caused the convicted killer in that case, Robert Hashagen, to ask for a new trial, believing Henderson’s sexual relations created bias.
While Henderson said he remained “fair” despite the relationship, Hashagen’s attorney Benjamin Munda disagrees.
“We both firmly believe that we were treated extremely unfairly at trial,” he said. “At the time, we didn’t know why. I think we have a much better idea of that now.”
A Canadian County judge assigned to look into the matter released findings following an evidentiary hearing back in November. He found that Hashagen is entitled to a new trial.
It is now up to the Criminal Court of Appeals to look at the judge’s findings and determine whether Hashagen will receive a new trial.
Also seeking a new trials is Aaron Brock, convicted in 2018 for robbing an Oklahoma City motel at knifepoint in 2015.
“Anybody sitting from a common sense standard would think maybe the judge may have been showing some favoritism to the prosecutor he was having this intimate relationship with,” said Robert Gifford, Brock’s attorney. “The court gave him the maximum sentence on each count, which was a total of 35 years.”
KFOR has also learned that convict Aaron Fort will be seeking a new trial. He was found guilty for trafficking heroine and is currently appealing his case. The first step in the process for Fort getting his hope of a new trial starts Jan. 24 with an evidentiary hearing.
Henderson resigned in March 2021. While he claims the relationship with the ADA was consensual, the ADA has said in court documents it was not.
Rep. Lowe is upset about Henderson’s actions that have led to such fall out.
“I was disappointed,” he said. “If you can’t have trust in the judicial system and judges and lawyers, we’re in a bad place.”
He calls his bill to punish behavior like Henderson’s “common sense” and believes it’ll have bipartisan support this legislative session.
“What he did was obviously unethical, but at this point, it’s not illegal to have a sexual relationship with a prosecutor or a lawyer in his courtroom or a judge’s courtroom,” he said. “So my bill would make this illegal.”
If Lowe’s bill becomes law, guilty offenders could face up to two years in prison.