The Oklahoma Supreme Court this week suspended the law license of a former state senate leader convicted of accepting bribes to influence legislation. A jury in March, 2012, convicted Tulsa native Michael Steven Morgan on a single count of bribery. The court suspended his law license this week after he was sentenced in U.S. federal court to five years probation on the March bribery conviction.
Under routine court procedures, Morgan has until March 18 to show cause why the interim suspension should be set aside, and until April 8 to show cause why a final order of discipline should not be imposed. Morgan served in the Senate from 1996 through 2008, when term limits prevented him from seeking re-election.
The same jury that convicted Morgan on the lone bribery count acquitted him on 33 other felony charges, and deadlocked on 28 other counts. The Oklahoman’s NewsOK.com reported the former Senate leader was found guilty of taking $12,000 in bribes to influence legislation.
According those news accounts, the owner of Edmond-based Silver Oak Senior Living told a jury that he met with Morgan in the state Capitol on May 2006 to find help in a conflict with the state Health Department. The owner, Sam Crosby, said Morgan asked him for a $1,000 retainer.
Morgan denied that he’d met Crosby in the Capitol, but said he was hired to file a lawsuit against the Health Department. Morgan said he later advised against filing the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Morgan – who was the at the time the Democrat Senate Pro Tem — sponsored 738, which industry officials lauded as “a victory for consumer rights related to the assisted living industry in Oklahoma.”
The attorney who represented Morgan at trial offered a different take. He said the bill helped the assisted living industry, but was not introduced to help the specific company that had hired Morgan as an attorney.
The attorney who represented Morgan, James David Ogle, also has disciplinary proceedings pending after a criminal conviction. In August, Ogle pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that alleged he paid a police officer not to appear at a hearing. The Bar Association in November extended the hearing date in that disciplinary matter, and this week requested an extension of time to file the Trail Panel report.
In an odd twist, the Senate bill number associated with Morgan’s alleged pay-to-play scheme as a lawmaker in 2007 again appeared at the center of an Oklahoma political corruption investigation in 2010. Governor Brad Henry vetoed 2010 Senate Bill 738 after being briefed by a district attorney about allegations of legislative misconduct. The bill would have appointed a transition coordinator to oversee the relocation of the Office of Medical Examiner from Oklahoma City to Edmond. In that investigation, two legislators were charged with making and taking bribes to withdraw a candidacy. The 2010 corruption case against two legislators remains pending while the state appeals an adverse ruling.