Fisher Witnesses Object to Convening New Grand Jury

April 14, 2005

Texas businessman Gene Phillips, whose relationship with former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher was the focus of a multicounty grand jury investigation, is objecting to plans to convene a new grand jury that Phillips said may target him, the Associated Press reported.

In papers filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Phillips, his associate Ron Akin and his attorney, Stephen Jones of Enid, challenged Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s plan to impanel a multicounty grand jury that Phillips indicated will resume the Fisher investigation.

“Purportedly, Mr. Phillips may be a target” of the new grand jury, according to his 43-page motion. A previous grand jury handed up an indictment that accused Fisher of accepting a bribe from Phillips.

Edmondson asked the high court last week to convene a new multicounty grand jury for an 18-month term. Phillips, Akin and Jones allege that procedures for selecting members of the grand jury are being abused and that the previous grand jury was impaneled in violation of state rules.

They also allege that the grand jury lacks basic operational rules, including how to file a motion, set a hearing and serve pleadings.

“Witnesses who appear before the multicounty grand jury currently have no constitutional protection in terms of procedural fairness,” the motion states.

A spokesman for Edmondson, Charlie Price, said the multicounty grand jury would be the sixth since Edmondson became attorney general in 1995. “Never before has an objection been filed,” Price said.

He also said Edmondson’s office is “taking a close look” at whether Jones has legal standing to file the challenge with Phillips and Akin.

The previous grand jury, which adjourned on Feb. 23, said Fisher accepted bribes from Phillips, his family and business associates while insurance commissioner. The alleged bribes included a $25,000 check from Davister Corp. Akin was an officer of that company.

Jones has said Phillips was never an officer, director or shareholder of Davister. But the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission identified the company as being “managed by the same personnel who manage … other private companies owned by Phillips or his family trusts.”

In September 1999 Fisher personally approved the sale of Tulsa’s American Reserve Life Insurance Co. to a Phillips-related company, authorities said.

Phillips has been interviewed twice by investigators from the attorney general’s office, the grand jury’s legal adviser, and Phillips’ business associates, including Akin, were subpoenaed to testify before the earlier grand jury. Akin appeared before the grand jury twice.

Phillips’ appearance was also sought, according to the motion. The grand jury returned eight indictments naming three defendants on 11 separate counts in its investigation of Fisher.

Indicted were Fisher, former assistant Opal Ellis and the Fisher Foundation Inc. Fisher is charged with embezzlement, operating a charity illegally, perjury, bribery and filing a false income tax return.

Fisher, 64, resigned on Sept. 24 after being impeached by the state House. He left office before a Senate trial on five articles of impeachment to devote time to his defense on criminal charges.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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