In the end, former state Rep. Randy Terrill’s demise was marked publicly by the same type of generalizations and paranoia he used to pass one of the strictest anti-illegal immigration laws in the country years before.
After testifying in his trial, Terrill, who was convicted of political bribery Tuesday, told reporters, “This prosecution has done more damage to our political system than anything that I can think of in recent history.” Really? What about the testimony of witnesses? What about the actual case, the actual evidence?
The prosecution had argued that Terrill, who served as a Republican, offered then state Sen. Debbe Leftwich a job in the medical examiner’s office in exchange for not running for reelection. Leftwich, a Democrat, also faces political bribery charges. Terrill, prosecutors contended, tried to create the job through last-minute legislation and was hoping to help his friend, state Rep. Mike Christian, win Leftwich’s seat. The legislation was later vetoed by former Gov. Brad Henry.
The 12-person jury convicted Terrill of the charge early Tuesday evening and recommended a one-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.
Terrill’s comments to reporters displayed the same type of paranoid attitude he used when pushing House Bill 1804 in 2007. That was the anti-illegal immigration bill that made national headlines. I wrote about it here.
Here is some of the bill’s initial language:
The State of Oklahoma finds that illegal immigration is causing economic hardship and lawlessness in this state and that illegal immigration is encouraged by public agencies within this state that provide public benefits without verifying immigration status.
Just like his reported comments about the damage caused by his prosecution, the illegal immigration claims were sweeping generalizations that seemed devoid of real substance. What about the evidence? How exactly are illegal immigrants “causing economic hardship”?
But if those Democrats who actually opposed Terrill’s bill, which was signed into law by Henry in 2007, are thinking he has received some type of political karmic comeuppance, they should remind themselves that this bribery case is definitely a bipartisan affair.
Leftwich, a Democrat, was elected to her late husband’s Senate seat during a special election in 2003. Her late husband, Keith, who died of cancer that year, has both a college library and a stretch of interstate named for him, indicating he was generally revered as a politician. The charges against Debbe Leftwich were greeted with shock by some Democrats at the time they were announced and they obviously don’t help the party itself. Her trial is set for December.
Right now, one person who seems above the political fray is Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who once again carefully considered evidence and proceeded in what he knew was going to be a high-profile case. His office presented a thorough case that won over jurors.
Terrill says he plans to appeal his case, and he may well win, but for now he’s a convicted felon. Political bribery remains a serious charge in our culture. It’s wrong, and it should be punished. That’s how the jury also apparently viewed it.
In the end, Terrill’s comments about the alleged damage caused by his prosecution is just another generalization that will go down the collective memory hole of Oklahomans who even cared about this trial. Terrill is doing himself no favors.