Okla. Gov. Listed as Witness in Trial of Former Commissioner

January 29, 2006

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and former Gov. Frank Keating have been listed as defense witnesses for Carroll Fisher, the former state insurance commissioner, the Oklahoman and the Associated Press reported.

Both have been critical of Fisher, who quit in 2004.

Henry, a Democrat, and Keating, a Republican, were named in a defense witness list filed in Fisher’s bribery case.

“I’m confident they will not be character witnesses,” said Attorney General Drew Edmondson, whose assistants are prosecuting the case.

Fisher, a Democrat, faces trial Feb. 6 in a different criminal case – one of five against him.

Former state Auditor Clifton Scott and former Attorney General Susan Loving also were listed as defense witnesses in the bribery case.

“Really, I don’t know for sure which, if any of those, will get called,” said Fisher’s attorney, Bob Wyatt. “They have not been served yet. That trial’s not coming up … It’s really kind of down the line.”

In the bribery case, Fisher is accused of accepting money and gifts from Texas businessman Gene Phillips, Phillips’ family and business associates.

Prosecutors allege the bribes included a $25,000 check, about $20,000 in office furniture and $25,000 in campaign contributions.

Fisher and Phillips deny wrongdoing. Phillips has not been charged.

Fisher sought advice in 1999 from Scott, then the state auditor, on how to legally accept donated furniture.

Fisher has said he did not find out until later the governor’s approval was required.

Fisher might call Henry as a witness to testify that Henry refused to accept the furniture as gifts to the state, according to the witness list.

Henry declined comment on his inclusion on the witness list.

Fisher does not explain in detail why Keating might be a witness.

While governor, Keating chose not to act on Fisher’s request to accept the furniture as gifts to the state.

Keating could be asked to testify about a $50,000 gift from a Phillips company to refurbish the governor’s mansion.

Keating said the situation is different because a governor has no regulatory duties and the mansion gifts are overseen by a nonprofit organization.

He said he did not know he was listed as a witness.

“I don’t see how I can be of much assistance,” Keating said. “Furnishing your own office in your name and furnishing a public house open to public tours in the name of a nonprofit are quite dissimilar.”

Fisher expects to call Scott to testify about the auditor’s 1999 letter on the furniture, according to the witness list.

Fisher may call Loving to talk about work she did as a private attorney for a company owned by a trust Phillips set up.

The trial in February will deal with an embezzlement charge against Fisher. It is expected to last three to four days, including time spent on jury selection.

Prosecutors allege Fisher embezzled his own campaign funds when he deposited a $1,000 campaign check into his overdrawn personal bank account in 2003.

Fisher, 65, now works in San Diego.

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