Judge to Consider Change of Venue for Former Okla. Commissioner

November 23, 2005

An Oklahoma County judge has set a Dec. 19 hearing to decide whether former Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s pending trial should be moved out of the county, the Associated Press reported.

District Judge Susan Caswell agreed to consider a change of venue during a recent hearing. Caswell refused to dismiss felony charges against Fisher and rejected Fisher’s argument that a different judge should be in charge of his trial.

Fisher is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 6. He faces charges of embezzlement, perjury, bribery, filing a false income tax return, failure to pay over money to the state, failure to register a charity, failure to report charitable contributions and failure to keep appropriate records of contributions.

The former state official was impeached by the Oklahoma House but resigned before facing proceedings in the state Senate.

Fisher’s attorney Robert Wyatt argued that Fisher cannot receive a fair trial in Oklahoma County because of extensive pretrial publicity in newspapers and on local television and radio stations. Those reasons also make it unlikely Fisher’s defense attorneys could select an impartial jury in Oklahoma County, Wyatt contended.

Other locations for the trial suggested by Wyatt were Carter, Kay or Pontotoc counties, where Oklahoma County media do not reach most residents.

Wyatt also is asking Caswell to dismiss a charge against Fisher of accepting or receiving a bribe, citing selective prosecution.

That charge stems from campaign contributions, office furniture and a $25,000 check from Texas businessman Gene Phillips, his family or officials with Phillips’ companies, allegedly in exchange for preferential treatment for Phillips’ applications to acquire Oklahoma insurance companies.

Wyatt argues that former Gov. Frank Keating accepted $250,000 from financier Jack Dreyfus when Dreyfus was pushing for the drug Dilantin to be given to federal prisoners.

Wyatt contends that Keating tried to persuade federal and state officials to explore using the anti-seizure drug on inmates for behavior-altering purposes. The money was returned once the matter became public knowledge.

Keating wasn’t prosecuted, Wyatt said.

Fisher returned the furniture after Gov. Brad Henry refused to accept in on the state’s behalf.

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