The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

July 3, 2013

Freed prisoner files civil lawsuit against Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. — The city of Tulsa acted recklessly and maliciously by failing to properly supervise police officers who routinely deprived citizens of their constitutional rights, a man freed from prison as the result of a federal corruption probe alleges in a lawsuit.

The 17-page complaint was filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court by Tony Becknell, who is among the dozens of former prisoners who have had sentences vacated or greatly reduced due to a federal corruption probe of the city's police practices that began in 2009.

Becknell, who was ordered released last year from a nearly 16-year prison term on alleged drug charges, is seeking a jury trial and more than $15 million in damages, as well as attorney fees and other costs.

Becknell's attorney, J. Derek Ingle, declined further comment Wednesday, saying the lawsuit spoke for itself. A spokeswoman for the city, Michelle Allen, said she could not comment because the matter involved pending litigation.

"The plaintiff was deprived of his very freedom, suffered severe emotional trauma, pain and distress, and will most assuredly continue to suffer future emotional pain and distress entitling him to compensatory damages," Becknell's suit claims. "Because these defendants exhibited evil motive and intent and/or demonstrated reckless or callous indifference to his federally protected rights, the plaintiff further seeks and is entitled an award of punitive damages against them."

In addition to the city, former Tulsa officer Jeff Henderson is named as a defendant, along with 40 unknown employees, policymakers and supervisors on the force.

Henderson has been in prison since he was sentenced in December 2011 after a jury found him guilty of lying six times during a federal court case and violating the civil rights of citizens during an illegal search.

He was among 11 officers to be charged or named as unindicted co-conspirators in the federal investigation of the department. It represented one of the worst police corruption scandals in at least a generation.


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