This article originally published in the Coweta American, a weekly publication connected to the Tulsa World.
WAGONER — Former Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert and former sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Gragg will face trial on bribery charges, a judge ruled Friday.
Sequoyah County Special Judge Matt Orendorff ruled sufficient evidence was presented during a preliminary hearing that Colbert and Gragg received a bribe and conspired to receive a bribe when they released two people under arrest in exchange for their turning over money that was seized at a December 2014 traffic stop.
Orendorff dismissed a felony extortion charge, stating that the money was seized legally because there was probable cause that the funds were drug proceeds.
Torell Wallace, the subject of the bribery claims, testified Wednesday that Colbert advised him that he would be released from the Wagoner County Jail on Dec. 13, 2014, on the condition that he sign documents relinquishing $10,000 that Gragg had obtained from his vehicle during a traffic stop earlier that day.
Wallace was transported to the hearing from a Missouri prison, where he is incarcerated and awaiting sentencing on a drug charge.
During the three-day hearing, multiple law enforcement officers testified that they assisted in releasing Wallace and his teenage passenger under Colbert’s instruction.
Deputy Keylen Reed, who was called as backup during the traffic stop, testified Friday that Gragg told him at the time that Wallace could come back to retrieve the seized money.
Reed said he was uncomfortable with Gragg’s statement after reading that Wallace had signed paperwork saying he would not seek the cash in the future, according to testimony.
Reed told prosecutors he thought it was odd that Wallace was allowed to leave the jail that day.
“We typically don’t arrest and then un-arrest,” he testified.
Law enforcement officers reportedly arrested Wallace on a complaint of possession of drug proceeds, but there is no arrest report because his booking process was never completed.
Deputy Brent Roberts, who was a detention officer at the time, testified that Colbert instructed him not to complete the booking process.
Barbara Bailey, Wallace’s 17-year-old passenger during the traffic stop, testified Thursday that deputies also arrested her and were in the process of booking her into the jail before discovering she was a minor.
Former detention officer Debra Wheeler said Colbert then told her to retrieve Bailey’s clothes so she could change out of a jail uniform, according to testimony.
Andrew Rogers, a jail detention officer who was working in the control tower at the time, said he observed via video camera Colbert removing Wallace’s handcuffs before he and Bailey exited. Rogers later deleted a security log of the incident.
Wallace and Bailey testified that after Wallace signed over the money, they were escorted out of the jail without being asked to post bond and without any notice of charges filed or citations issued.
Defense attorney Michon Hastings Hughes said the preliminary hearing revealed a lot of credibility issues for the state.
“I really don’t think this is going to survive a jury trial,” she said after the hearing.
Colbert and Gragg will appear for arraignment Sept. 7.
Colbert is suspended from the Sheriff’s Office with pay after a multicounty grand jury recommended his removal in March. Gragg was released from employment with the department in June.