*WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SENSITIVE MATERIAL SURROUNDING CHILD ABUSE. THE IDENTITY OF SOME PERSONS HAVE BEEN CHANGED
More news out of Stillwater today involving the Payne County District Attorney’s office. Future State Senate candidate and Stillwater father Darrell Dougherty has filed new petitions in a long-fought claim against the City of Stillwater. The negligence case stems from the Dougherty family’s court order granting sole custody of his minor child to his ex-wife, despite open allegations of abuse occurring in his ex-wife’s home. According to Dougherty, Judge Kulling knew and intentionally placed the child in a home where an invalid investigation took place based on fraud and perjury in the Payne County Court. Dougherty filed a motion to modify custody immediately upon learning of the abuse in April 2018, asking the court to give him sole custody of the child. The custody case is in the Court of Civil Appeals with a final decision still pending.
A federal case is expected to be filed as early as next week by Brendan McHugh, a rising star litigator representing Dougherty, in which Payne County District Attorney Laura Thomas and other local officials will be named as co-defendants. McHugh is also the attorney for The Woolley family and their injustice in Wagoner County. We were able to source documents from the case that shed light on the controversy.
Through court documents, it is verified that abuse did take place, but the Payne County DA and Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) chose to disregard the disclosures as a misunderstanding. Due to the actions, and inactions, of the City and its police force, a negligence action was filed.
Dougherty had named employees of the Stillwater Police Department, OKDHS, Mayor Will Joyce, and Norm McNickle in the negligence suit. In the lawsuits, there are a number of allegations.
The City has no problem cleaning house each and every time they have been called out publicly for corruption. The problem is, there has been no accountability since ex-Payne County prosecutor Paul Anderson received an embezzlement conviction in 1996. The lack of accountability gives the public appearance as if the personnel were used as tools then swept out the door, trying to make it look as if nothing shady is happening. Usually, hidden settlement agreements and high awards are given before the local government officials fall off the face of the earth. Former police chiefs, DHS workers, non-profit directors, and school superintendents, and others wind up either dead or several states away with no charges ever being brought against them to indicate foul play. At the time of writing this article, we only found dead end after dead end locating a former police chief for the process of service to witness in several cases. SPD Chief of Police Ryan McCaghren retired from the department on Nov. 20, 2018 and now is rumored to be deceased, with no obituary written.
The most recent example of this is former City Attorney John Dorman’s 2022 separation from the City of Stillwater. It was confirmed that this parting of ways was related to Dougherty’s tort case against the City and happened shortly after Dougherty and Dorman agreed to meet about the corruption in the police department that City Manager Norm McNickle had refused to address. McNickle was a former Stillwater Police Chief that transitioned into the City Manager position. Mayor Joyce and counsel agreed to a separation agreement with John Dorman and his release from employment with the City of Stillwater.
Case No. CJ-2021-19 was filed in January of 2021 and is still pending a decision by the Court. Since that time there has been no logical explanation for the sole custody decision awarded by the Payne County family courts. Through the negligence case, the State has argued that Dougherty was using the abuse claims as a way to get back at his ex-wife. However, we know that’s not the case given the facts that are coming to light. The facts are that DHS entered false disclosure statements in an attempt to undermine Dougherty. The new Deputy Director for the State of Oklahoma DHS, Amy Whitson, made a referral to the OKDHS hotline in October of 2019 against Dougherty’s ex-wife and then later claimed it was Dougherty who made the complaint. However, her email address is the one attached to the allegations, not Dougherty. The same scenario occurred in the Moyer v. Thomas federal case where DHS explained they did not pursue the investigation because Moyer originally contacted the police, only to personally ask for a new report to be made through DHS years after the original report had been made. The report was then used against the reporter, Moyer, in front of the Court.
Now, as we find out that our DA employs a child exploiter who oversaw several cases in which children were involved, things start to make sense. The ADA, Kevin Etherington, was asked to investigate the harassment, the physical assault by police on Dougherty, a sexual assault on a friend of Dougherty’s, and multiple instances of child welfare officers protecting the abuser. As the top DA assigned to determine if charges would be brought, Etherington failed to act on any of these reports and would not even return calls to Dougherty. In an email received in 2020, Dougherty was informed the DA’s office and the police department would not be investigating.
Through the testimony of multiple witnesses and victims it was later discovered they were never interviewed in regard to the physical assault on Dougherty by SPD and the sexual assault allegations involving his friend. Incidents that DA Laura Thomas and then Chief of Police McNickle had agreed not to investigate.
In the negligence case, Dougherty is alleging that the Stillwater Police Department and Oklahoma Department of Human Services failed to investigate and protect his minor child. It is alleged that Stillwater Police Department’s Sherae LeJeune perjured herself and described the abuse of his child as not being a big deal. Dougherty believes that the poorly performed investigation and subsequent report was simply an act to smear his custody case with his ex-wife who once worked for CASA with Elizabeth Beck.
Other counts in the court filings state that the Payne County DA wouldn’t look at the complaint of sodomy of a child which had been raised through disclosures to DHS personnel. When Thomas and Etherington refused to investigate heinous crimes such as sodomy of a child, DA Thomas refused to even speak with Dougherty and has done the same to other parents who have raised allegations of abuse.
The father and son both want justice and argue that the law is not being followed due to unethical behavior by Stillwater officials and DHS. The Guardian ad Litem assigned to the case has refused to speak about the police report or the abuse of Dougherty’s son.
Dougherty has now remarried and is raising three children with his wife while continuing to fight for his family.
Dougherty is not alone in his claims. Several lawsuits are in the works from families alleging that Payne County judges, the Payne County District Attorney’s office, some local attorneys and local law enforcement officers would work together to retaliate against parents they deemed deserving of separation from their children for various illegal reasons. Thomas was already being heavily criticized for her handling of several publicized cases, catching hell from citizens and co-workers who trusted her to ensure laws were being enforced.
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), “the prosecutor should seek to protect the innocent and convict the guilty, consider the interests of victims and witnesses, and respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.”
Just today we learned that former Delacerda and Oliver attorney, Jimmy Oliver, adopted a daughter in 2021, changed her name, and quickly left the state for Indiana with his husband. The mother of Sarah, the child adopted by Oliver, is crying foul in more ways than one in recent statements to the Oklahoma Post. The mother was expecting to see her children in an arranged visit but wasn’t even notified that her children had been removed from the state. She is claiming that Virginia Banks coerced and lied in order for the adoption to even be completed. Oliver who worked closely with Banks in the past was able to jump to the front of the line. Oliver is being accused in other cases of under-the-color-of-law activities in Federal Court along with co-conspirator Banks and the majority of the Payne County Judges in an effort to secure federal funding, pad the pockets of social service contractors and gain an advantage for their clients in complete disregard of federal law. Banks was the attorney of record to prevent the adoption, not facilitate for an indigent citizen. The due process violations that are occurring in many custody cases appear to be a way for these persons to speed up placements for the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan or, sometimes, just to screw over disadvantaged court participants. More on that will be coming in tomorrow’s Post. This is just one more of the many examples of families being torn apart through legal abuse.
As a father, Dougherty has been persistent in his claims because of his belief that children in Stillwater, especially his own, deserve an ethical and honest government.
“Unfortunately, no matter how bad these government employees and contractors are at their job, they are just selfish enough to choose to keep ahold of their power and authority versus allowing a positive change to occur. Stillwater needs change. The number of pin-wheels grows every year in the yard in front of the Payne County courthouse. Why do we have hundreds of pinwheels stuck in her yard, when she is in a position to right the wrongs but won’t prosecute?” Dougherty told the Post.
Regardless of the reason, the SHIP, as in the relationship between citizens and leadership, is sinking in northcentral Oklahoma and there are no leaders at the helm. The DA office morale is a wreck right now and Stillwater deserves better.
(Writing by Robbie Robertson; Editing by Robbie Robertson)
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