OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry testified Wednesday that he considers a former state legislator accused in a bribery scheme a friend, and that he had no evidence of the alleged job offer at the center of the case.
Henry, a Democrat, testified for about an hour in the trial of former state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore. Terrill, 44, is charged with offering former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, an $80,000-a-year state job in exchange for Leftwich's promise not to run for re-election in 2010. Prosecutors allege Terrill masterminded the scheme so that a Republican colleague of Terrill's could seek Leftwich's seat in south Oklahoma City.
Terrill and Leftwich, 62, both face up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted of their roles in the alleged scheme. Leftwich's trial is scheduled to begin later this year. Both have maintained their innocence.
Henry testified that he vetoed both a bill to create the state job and a separate measure to divert $90,000 to the agency after hearing rumors that the job had been created for Leftwich and learning that District Attorney David Prater had launched an investigation into the alleged scheme. He said he was disappointed to veto the bill because it contained other changes that were needed to improve the medical examiner's office.
"I didn't veto the bill lightly," Henry said. "We needed those reforms."
On cross-examination, Henry said that while he heard rumors that the job was created for Leftwich, he had no way of knowing if that was true.
"I don't know if there's one ounce of truth to that," Henry said.
Terrill's defense attorney has argued that no crime was committed because the job never existed and that even if it had, Terrill didn't have the authority to offer the job to Leftwich.
On his way out of the courthouse, Henry said he found it difficult to testify.
"Randy Terrill was a friend of mine. Sen. Leftwich is a friend of mine," Henry said. "But I'm going to tell the truth as I know it, and the chips will fall where they may."
The jury also heard from Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, who testified he had no knowledge of any scheme to get Leftwich the job so that he could run for her open Senate seat.
"I was dumbfounded," Christian said when asked his reaction when the bribery allegations first surfaced. "I couldn't believe it."
Christian said he had intended to run for Leftwich's seat whether she sought re-election or not, but decided not to run after learning of the bribery probe.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy