After an increase in 2016, felonies filed in Cleveland County declined in 2017, but misdemeanors increased.
Statistics gathered from the Cleveland County court clerk’s office revealed there were 1,657 felonies filed in 2017, compared to 2,028 in 2016, and 2,149 misdemeanors, compared to 2,007 in 2016.
One reason for that could be due to 58 percent of Oklahomans approving State Question 780 in November 2016, which resulted in the reclassification of most drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The law officially went into effect in July. Here’s a look at some notable stories from the court and courts beat in 2017:
• Cases against three former Norman North wrestlers dismissed: January — The cases against three former Norman North wrestlers accused of sexually assaulting teammates in 2016 were dismissed by Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn, who also serves as the DA for Garvin County where the charges were filed.
Originally, it was reported only the juvenile case against Sage Griffen Gandenberger was dismissed, but attorneys for the other two wrestlers, Chase Denton Smith and Hunter Oren Matthews, later confirmed the other cases were dismissed.
In April, the fourth and final wrestler involved in the alleged incident, Tanner Shane Shipman, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor assault and battery charges and, as part of a plea deal, received a six-month deferred sentence, which ended Sept. 30.
The alleged sexual assaults took place in January 2016 when the wrestling team, which included several middle school wrestlers, was returning from a tournament in Pauls Valley.
According to a Norman Police affidavit, a 16-year-old was sexually assaulted in the back of the bus on the return trip to Norman.
Later, a 12-year-old student was grabbed and dragged to the back of the bus, the affidavit states.
In July, a civil lawsuit was filed against Shipman, Smith and Gandenberger on behalf of one of the alleged victims.
The suit claims there was a practice of hazing within the Norman North wrestling program.
A Garvin County official confirmed Friday the suit has been moved to federal court.
• Norman attorney killed in double homicide, suicide: February — A Norman man shot and killed his his estranged wife, Cayann Patterson, and the lawyer representing her in divorce proceedings.
The emergency calls for both came in quick succession. The first, at about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 7, took officers to Bryan Young’s house on Trisha Lane, where they say Timothy Michael Deffner possibly broke in before shooting Young multiple times.
Young died from his injuries after he was transported to a local hospital.
A few minutes later, the Norman Fire Department was dispatched to a reported fire in the 1000 block of West Lindsey Street, where they found Patterson’s body.
Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said a resident’s tip led them to Deffner, whose vehicle was found abandoned the next morning in Tecumseh by a Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Deputy.
A few hours later, law enforcement concluded their manhunt by surrounding Deffner in a Tecumseh field, where he killed himself.
An arrest warrant had been issued for him Feb. 7 on five counts of forgery, and Deffner had two pending cases related to leaving the scene of an accident and committing malicious injury to property.
He was also scheduled for a Feb. 13 conference hearing for his divorce proceedings. He had previously been arrested for possession of a controlled substance and driving with a suspended license.
Court documents also reveal deep concerns Patterson had about her estranged husband. She received a protective order against him Aug. 24, 2015. In her initial complaint, Patterson described a series of violent interactions with Deffner, writing “he hit me in the chest with a Taser/stun gun and held me up against the wall with his hands around my throat.”
Patterson claimed Deffner threatened to kill her children “and have me watch before he kills me.”
“He has said he will burn our house down,” Patterson wrote. “He hides guns throughout our house — most recently in my daughter’s room.”
The second protection order did not definitively state whether Deffner had to surrender any firearms. In the first petition, Patterson wrote Deffner had “guns that belong to my mother.”
• State senator charged with assault of teen boy: March — Former state senator Ralph Shortey was charged March 16 with three felonies following an investigation into Shortey’s actions with a teenage boy.
In Cleveland County District Court, Shortey, 35, of Oklahoma City, faced charges of engaging in child prostitution, engaging in child prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church and transporting a minor for purpose of prostitution. In light of a federal indictment in September, those charges were dismissed.
On Nov. 30, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of child sex trafficking. The offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
In exchange for Shortey’s plea, U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop three child pornography counts against him at his sentencing hearing, which is expected to occur within 90 days after the plea was made.
The incident in Moore prompted an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Moore Police Department, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service.
In December, the Moore Police Department released body cam footage of the night officers responded to Super 8 Motel in Moore, where they found Shortey with the boy.
• Former OU player charged in connection with armed robbery: April — Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed a felony charge of robbery with a weapon April 17 against University of Oklahoma football player Parrish Cobb in connection with a April 12 robbery at the 2900 Students Apartments complex, 2900 Oak Tree Ave.
According to a Norman police affidavit, police responded to a call of an armed robbery at an apartment. Muhammad Asim and Jan Korkmaz were inside the apartment at the time of the robbery, and they said two men had just stolen cash and marijuana from them.
The victims said one man was wearing a mask and gloves, but Cobb, 20, was not. Asim and Korkmaz said they knew Cobb and they identified him as one of the people who robbed them.
Video surveillance from the apartment complex showed a white Ford Mustang driving in the apartment parking lot at about 11 p.m.
Then, about 20 minutes later, the video shows two men exiting the vehicle wearing dark-colored hoodies. Shortly after, the video shows the same two men running back to the Mustang and leaving the parking lot.
An OU police officer discovered the Mustang seen in the video in the parking lot of the OU Traditions West Apartment complex, 2730 W. Imhoff Road.
The Mustang was parked near a white Chrysler that was registered to a man police believed to be Cobb’s father.
Officers saw, in plain sight, a BB gun located in Cobb’s vehicle, so search warrants were secured for both vehicles.
Cobb was arrested and taken to the Norman Investigations Center, where he was interviewed by Norman police detectives, the affidavit read.
Cobb was a cornerback for the University of Oklahoma football team until he was charged with first-degree aggravated robbery in January in his hometown, Waco, Texas. He was suspended indefinitely from the team shortly after that.
Oklahoma court records reveal Cobb is set to have a disposition hearing in March. At the hearing, Cobb will be able to either enter a plea to the charges, get a new disposition date or ask for a trial.
• Friendly Market saga comes to an end: May — A nearly two-year legal battle involving glass pipes came to a close at the beginning of May.
A Cleveland County jury found Friendly Market owner Robert Cox and manager and Norman City Council member Stephen Tyler Holman not guilty May 8 for multiple charges Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed against them following a series of store raids in 2015.
During the two raids, police seized several hundred of items they believed were drug paraphernalia, in addition to about $5,000 cash as asset forfeiture.
The now open alternative lifestyle store and pipe shop, received the seized funds in June, but roughly $15,000 in inventory — much of it glass pipes — remained in the city’s possession.
That all changed after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the property to be returned in September.
The store, 301 S. Porter Ave., had its grand opening in November and is accepting customers. It’s open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Friendly Market clerks Cody Franklin and James Maxwell Walters also were charged with misdemeanor counts of possession drug paraphernalia following the Dec. 21, 2015, raid. A jury found Franklin not guilty in February. Walter’s first trial in October 2016 resulted in a mistrial.
According to testimony from Norman Police Det. Rick Newell and Chief Keith Humphrey, the case against the Friendly Market started after a resident’s complaint in 2015.
Newell said shortly after receiving the complaint, he went undercover to see what the store was selling. He found several items he believed to be drug paraphernalia.
Not long after going to the Friendly Market, he received a call from Cox asking for a meeting because Cox was concerned about Newell shutting his store down, like he had done with several others in Norman. At the May 4, 2015, meeting, Newell told Cox he needed to get rid of all the illegal items in his store and Cox obliged.
However, Newell found out a few months later that the Friendly Market went back to selling the items he told Cox to remove.
• AG files lawsuit against multiple pharmaceutical companies: June — Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a lawsuit against several prominent pharmaceutical companies.
On June 30, Hunter filed a lawsuit in Cleveland County against Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., alleging affiliates of the companies undersold the risks of addiction to Oklahomans, ultimately leading to an opioid epidemic.
“Deceptive marketing campaigns and the resulting opioid abuse and addiction epidemic caused, and continues to cause, the state of Oklahoma, its businesses, communities and citizens to bear enormous social and economic costs, including increased health care, criminal justice and lost work productivity expenses,” the suit read.
Hunter said the suit was filed in Cleveland County because his office felt the county was more representative of the general population of the state and the people who’ve been affected by opioids.
In December, Judge Thad Balkman denied the companies’ request to dismiss the lawsuit, which they filed in September in response to the state’s petition.
Balkman subsequently scheduled a conference Jan. 11, where attorneys from the parties will meet to agree on a trial date.
The state, plaintiff in the suit, said the companies violated the Oklahoma Medicaid False Claims Act, Oklahoma Medicaid Program Integrity Act, Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act and the state is seeking compensation for damages, costs and punitive damages.
Helping Hunter represent the state will be the Whitten Burrage law firm of Oklahoma City; attorney Glenn Coffee of Oklahoma City; and Nix, Patterson & Roach LLP, a firm based in Austin.
Burrage, whose family has been directly affected by opioid use, said the companies should be required to compensate the state and its taxpayers for the tremendous burden and heartbreak opioids have caused.
• OHP Trooper dies following high-speed chase: July — An Oklahoma Highway Patrolman lost his life following a July 14 wreck.
OHP Lt. Heath Meyer was struck by another OHP vehicle while outside his patrol car during a high speed chase that ended in Moore, according to OHP.
The suspect in the pursuit, D’Angelo Ladon Burgess, 28, faces charges of first-degree murder endangering others while eluding, possessing marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia in connection with the trooper’s death.
Oklahoma court records reveal Burgess is set to appear before Judge Steve Stice for a preliminary hearing March 2. At the hearing, the state will have to show there is probable cause for the case to continue making its way through the court system.
During a press conference in July, lead investigator Capt. Ronnie Hampton said Meyer was hit by the patrol vehicle while setting up spike strips, or stop sticks, on Interstate 35 near Northwest 27th Street in Moore.
Hampton said Burgess was able to avoid the spike strips and continued northbound.
Trooper’s Rodney Rideaux and Clint Painter then attempted to do the same but collided in the process. Then, Painter’s cruiser struck Meyer while he was outside of his vehicle.
Family, friends and guests gathered July 31 at the University of Oklahoma’s Lloyd Noble Center to honor Meyer.
“Heath was a good man, and that’s why so many people from all over Oklahoma and the United States of America are here honoring him today,” said Assistant Adjutant Brig. Gen. Michael C. Thompson. “His life had purpose; it had influence. His life was well-lived.”
Thompson served as the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety commissioner at the time of Meyer’s death.
• Reserve deputy released after controversial social media post: August — Former Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester dismissed reserve deputy Ken Coartney after Coartney made a controversial post on Facebook that bashed several groups.
The post which read, “the new generation is filled with lib tards, transvestites, gays and sissies who need a safe room,” prompted an internal investigation by Lester’s office.
Not even two months later, Lester resigned and dismissed his lawsuit against the county commissioners.
Then-Cleveland County project manager and former Norman Police Officer Todd Gibson was chosen to fill the void and be interim sheriff.
• Nolen found guilty in murder case: September — The more than three-year first-degree murder case against Alton Nolen came to an end after a Cleveland County jury found him guilty for the 2014 beheading death of Colleen Hufford.
On Sept. 29, the 12-person jury, made up of eight men and four women, convicted Nolen and recommended he receive the death penalty for his crimes, which include the murder and several assaults on other coworkers — a recommendation Cleveland County Judge Lori Walkley accepted in December.
“I can’t bring Colleen back, and it’s unfortunate that another life will be taken,” Walkley said. “[Nolen], may God have mercy on your soul.”
Walkley set Nolen’s execution date for Feb. 14, but it will be stayed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
According to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records, Nolen, 33, will join the 48 other convicted murderers who are on Oklahoma’s death row.
According to a Moore Police affidavit, Nolen had been fired from his production line job prior to the incident due to a complaint at the business. He entered the front office Sept. 25, 2014, with a knife, stabbing coworkers and beheading Hufford, before he was shot by company executive and Oklahoma County Sheriff’s reserve deputy Mark Vaughan.
Nolen’s trial lasted about a month, which included two weeks of detailed evidence and testimony about the attack, including how Hufford fought for her life.
“She had several cuts on her hands that indicated that she tried to defend herself,” Clay Nichols of the State Medical Examiner’s Office said. “There was a struggle and she tried her best to ward off the attack.”
It took a little more than two hours for the jury to find Nolen guilty on all counts. The jury recommended multiple life sentences for the five assault with weapon charges Nolen faced in connection with the attack, but his punishment in regard to the first-degree murder charge had to wait.
The defense claimed Nolen was intellectually disabled and, under Oklahoma law, could not be sentenced to death.
On Oct. 10, the jury unanimously agreed that Nolen was not intellectually disabled and was eligible to receive the death penalty.
• Jury convicts Noble day care owner of murder: October — A Cleveland County jury convicted a former Noble day care owner of the the first-degree murder of a 5-month-old baby.
In October, the 12-person jury, made up of five men and seven women, convicted Melissa Dawn Clark, 47, for the first-degree murder of 5-month-old Braelyn Zachary and recommended she serve life in prison with the possibility of parole. About two months later, Judge Steven Kessinger, of Pontotoc County, adopted a Cleveland County jury’s recommendation.
According to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation affidavit, Clark was running an in-home day care in Noble, where she cared for Zachary, along with five other children, ranging from 11 months to 5 years old.
Noble police received a report of an unresponsive child, later identified as Braelyn, on July 19, 2016, at Clark’s residence, the affidavit read.
During an interview with OSBI agents Lynda Stevens and Steve Tanner and Department of Human Services representative Krystal Adams the day after the incident occurred, Clark said she accidentally dropped Braelyn on the ground while she was making a cup of coffee.
After Clark picked up the girl, she said she noticed the child had a small, red mark on the back of the her head, but nothing appeared to be seriously wrong with Braelyn. Clark said about two hours later, she heard the girl making a strange sound that sounded similar to choking on fluids. Clark claimed she subsequently began CPR.
However, Clark backtracked and said prior to hearing Braelyn choking, she tossed the girl into a “bouncy” seat, and the child hit the bar on the seat and fell to the floor.
• Judge sentences man to 3,000 years in prison: November — Cleveland County Judge Thad Balkman sentenced a man convicted of sexually assaulting three children to serve more than 3,000 years in prison.
“The crimes committed by Chadwell go against the peace and dignity of the state of Oklahoma. They are vile, lewd, obscene, lascivious and graphic,” Balkman said.
A jury found Daniel Ryan Chadwell, 34, guilty in September on 38 out of 40 felony counts and recommended punishment ranging from 25 to 100 years in prison for each count, totaling 3,025 years.
According to a Cleveland County probable cause affidavit, at the time of the incidents, Chadwell was married to two of the victims’ mother.
The victim’s mother reported to Oklahoma City Police detectives that her daughter told her Chadwell had inappropriately touched her.
Chadwell’s first trial in 2016 ended in a mistrial. He was originally charged with 40 felony county, including 36 counts of child sexual abuse and four counts of lewd acts with a child under 16. However, the charges were amended before the beginning of this trial to reflect 40 counts of lewd acts with a child under 16.
During Chadwell’s second trial, all three victims testified about their experiences, including the girl who was the primary target of Chadwell’s abuse.
United States Secret Service agent and Moore Police Det. Chris Lamar testified during the trial that there was evidence of child pornography on Chadwell’s home computer and his personal tablet, as well.
• DA determines rape charges “not warranted” against OU running back: December — A 23-year-old University of Oklahoma undergraduate student accused university running back Rodney Anderson of sexually assaulting her.
Courtney Thornton claimed Anderson had assaulted her during a sexual encounter at her apartment. Oklahoma court records reveal an emergency protective order was then issued Dec. 4 against Anderson.
Thornton later dropped the protective order she brought against Anderson because she had to serve military orders, according to court documents.
Her decision to do so came one day after Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn chose not to pursue charges.
A Norman Police Department investigation uncovered friendly text messages between Anderson and Thornton, which were exchanged after Nov. 16, the day the woman later told police Anderson had assaulted her.
Accounts from three of Thornton’s friends were inconsistent with Thornton’s initial statement to police and supported Anderson’s attorney’s claim that the accusation came after the Sooner running back chose not to pursue a relationship with Thornton.
Based on information received from Norman police regarding Anderson’s case, “definitely, charges are not warranted under these circumstances,” Mashburn said.
Transcript Editor Caleb Slinkard, OU Sports Writer Tyler Palmateer and Transcript News Editor Mack Burke contributed to this report.