Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Criminal defense, Drive-by shooting, Oklahoma criminal charges | Posted on 24-08-2009
Two off-duty Oklahoma City Police department sergeants have been charged with “Drive-by Shooting.” Sgt. Diron Carter and Sgt. Michael McKethan were arrested, posted $25,000 bond each and were released. Carter is a eight-year veteran and McKethan is a seven-year veteran of the police force.
The law against “drive-by” shootings was the result of gang shootings and was enacted to punish them. From the facts made public about these charges, it doesn’t look a “drive-by” shooting took place at all. It looks like the police officers are overcharged here, but that is par for the course for state prosecutions. Criminal defense lawyers face this every day. Unlike federal prosecutors, Oklahoma at least, state prosecutors routinely file charges that stretch to the absolute maximum penalty any charge possibly supportable under the law. It is called “overcharging” because the charge does not fairly describe the nature of the offense. The police are very much aware of this and usually involved in it. So these police officers, who have participated for years in this practice of over-charging and have no doubt enjoyed thus using this leverage to squeeze bad guys, to intimidate them to plead guilty, are now facing its wrath.
What happened in this ? The facts alleged are that Carter and McKethan, off-duty at the time, went to Night Trips, a local strip club. McKethan reportedly spoke to one of the strippers, whose child may be the child of McKethan. Police received a call that shots had been fired outside the bar, and witnesses reported that a man in a white sport utility vehicle was throwing bottles as he drove through the stip club parking lot. When the witnesses confronted the two men in the sport vehicle about their conduct, an argument ensued. Eventually, the passenger, allegedly Sgt. Carter, is reported to have leaned out of the sport vehicle with a handgun, saying “You want to see my baby Glock?” He then fired a single shot.
Investigators later recovered a .40 caliber shell casing in the street, which allegedly came from a “baby Glock,” which is firearm carried by off-duty policeman. Further verification of the event was obtained when investigators also recovered a slug they dug out of a metal wall at a nearby laundry supply business. The prosecution alleges the shot was fired “in the direction of several bystanders.” This will be the critical fact that will fuel the charge, the essential factoid that takes the charge beyond a mere technical violation and lights a fire under the jury. True, no one was hurt, but someone could have been killed! That will be the prosecutor’s argument.
Later Sgt. Carter admitted to being at the club that night but denied being involved in anything relating to a shot being fired. Still later, Carter is reported to have told a fellow officer that “it was an accidental shooting.”
Both Carter and McKethan are on administrative leave while facing the charges, paid at all times by the faithful tax-payers of Oklahoma City. Of course, they are presumed innocent of the charges until a jury finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But many other people are charged with a crime and are immediately fired. No one pays them to make their way through the legal system. Any criminal defense lawyer would want that for his client. No doubt this status of being on administrative leave with pay while awaiting disposition of the criminal charges comes from the police contract with the City of Oklahoma City. The Fraternal Order of Police negotiates the police contract every few years, and the contract always contains provisions like this.