TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A former volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Oklahoma who says he confused his handgun and stun gun when he shot and killed and unarmed, restrained man will face a jury trial in February, a judge ruled Monday.
Robert Bates, 73, pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter charges during his district court arraignment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he was bound over for trial. He is charged in the April 2 killing of 44-year-old Eric Harris, who ran from Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputies after a sting involving gun sales. Harris’ brother and son attended the arraignment.
The death has embroiled the community, spawning allegations of corruption by Bates’ longtime friend Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, a grand jury probe into the office and complaints by residents who don’t want taxpayer money to pay for the sheriff’s legal fight.
Judge James Caputo set a trial date for Feb. 8 and declined to recuse himself from the case. He had considered stepping down over his close ties to the sheriff’s office, where he worked for about seven years. Caputo, in April, said his daughter worked for the office. A sheriff’s office spokesman on Monday didn’t return a request for comment on if she was still employed there.
Attorneys for both sides agreed in court that they didn’t see any conflicts of interest or risk that Caputo wouldn’t be impartial.
“I’ve never shied away from a case yet, and I don’t intend to now,” Caputo told the court, according to the Tulsa World.
Across town on Monday, community members gathered to voice their opposition to the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners’ decision to allocate taxpayer money for Glanz’s legal defense against the citizen-requested grand jury probe.
After the shooting and a leaked memo from 2009 that raised concerns about Bates’ training, District Judge Rebecca Nightingale ordered a grand jury to investigate whether reserve deputies who gave donations to the sheriff have been given special treatment. Bates donated thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the agency and had served as Glanz’s campaign manager.
Thousands of residents signed a petition to empanel the grand jury, which convenes July 20.
The commissioners on Monday reaffirmed their decision to provide money for Glanz’s legal defense in that grand jury investigation, according to the Tulsa World. They allowed people to speak at the meeting after not accepting public comment when originally authorizing the funds late last month. The commissioners decide to stand by the previous decision after being advised by their attorney that the previous action was legal.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.