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GLOSSIP CASE: DA Prater orchestrated arrest of key witness in death row appeal, court filing shows

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is shown in this 2012 Red Dirt Report file photo.
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Arrest warrant issued for second witness who declined to speak to district attorney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater orchestrated the arrest of a key witness in the appeal of death row inmate Richard Glossip, according to a legal document filed with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals late Tuesday.

Michael G. Scott, a former prison inmate at Joseph Harp Correctional Center, was taken into custody by a large group of law enforcement officers at the home he shares with mother in Claremore on a questionable warrant issued earlier Tuesday. He was arrested on complaints he had not finished his community service or paid his fines and court costs stemming from 2014 charges of driving under the influence and possession of a residual amount of marijuana. He received a suspended sentence on the Rogers County charges.

Scott has become a key figure in the death row appeal after swearing in an affidavit that he heard Justin Sneed brag to other inmates about framing Glossip for the beating death of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese in January 1997. Sneed confessed to killing Van Treese with a baseball bat, but later implicated Glossip in a purported murder-for-hire scheme. Sneed is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole while Glossip awaits execution on Sept. 30. An execution slated for Sept. 16 was halted by the appeals court based on new evidence, including Scott’s affidavit.

After Scott’s affidavit was made public last week, Prater called the investigation by Glossip’s new defense team a “bullshit PR campaign.” He went on a tirade in front of reporters after defense attorney Don Knight publicly introduced Scott’s affidavit during a press conference at the state Capitol. Prater claimed Glossip’s attorneys should have shared the new information with him.

Scott served five years in prison for armed robbery and was incarcerated in a cell across the hallway from Sneed in 2006 when the confessed killer said he set up Glossip.

Oklahoma City attorney Mark Henricksen wrote in the legal filing with the appeals court that as of the end of business Monday, Sept. 21, there were no warrants for Scott’s arrest. A day later, he was arrested after officers from Claremore and other agencies surrounded his house, called him on the phone and demanded that he leave the house, the document shows.

Scott agreed to leave the house through the back door and surrender. However, when he walked out, Scott was confronted by officers with their guns drawn and pointed at him. At least 10 to 15 officers were involved in his arrest, the legal filing states.

Former inmate Michael G. Scott (Photo courtesy Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections)

Scott was taken to an interrogation room at the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department where he saw a file with the name “Richard Glossip” written on it. Prater and an investigator walked in and began asking Scott questions about the affidavit he signed in the Glossip case. According to the court filing, Scott told Prater he did not want to answer his questions, but the prosecutor continued on with more inquiries about Scott’s drug use and prescription drugs his mother takes.

“The only way they could have known about this (mother’s medications) is to have entered the house that Mr. Scott shares with his mother at some point after his arrest,” Henricksen wrote in the court document. Police were not granted permission to enter the home by Scott or his mother.

Prater admitted to Scott that he called Rogers County and learned Scott was under supervision by the district attorney’s office and might be in violation of his suspended sentence. Prater also admitted he told authorities in Rogers County to issue a warrant for Scott’s arrest so he would be forced to talk with him about the Glossip affidavit, the court filing shows.

Prater was unavailable for comment late Tuesday.

Scott was booked into the Rogers County Jail at 4:45 p.m. and was released on $5,000 bond at 7:10 p.m. after Prater was through with his questioning.

“While in the interrogation room, Mr. Scott did not feel free to decline to talk with Prater and his investigator. He did not feel free to say he did not want to talk. Michael Scott felt that, in the circumstances that exist today, where people are often killed in police custody that he was in very real danger of being harmed just for having stood up and told the truth,” Henricksen wrote in the court filing.

Glossip attorneys later learned Prater attempted a similar ploy so he could talk to Joe Tapley, a former cellmate of Sneed’s while the two were in the Oklahoma County Jail in 1997. Tapley provided an affidavit to Glossip’s attorneys stating that Sneed admitted he acted alone in Van Treese’s death and never mentioned Glossip.

Tapley’s personal attorney informed Prater his client did not want to talk to him about the affidavit.

After Prater learned Tapley would not talk to him, a warrant was issued for Tapley’s arrest, the court filing shows.

Glossip’s attorneys have asked the appeals court to instruct Prater and his investigators to stop these types of actions immediately.

Defense attorney Don Knight said this latest information is absolutely outrageous.

"You’ve probably got a combined 100 years’ experience between the three of us and we’ve never heard of something so outrageous,” Knight said, referring to himself and other legal team members. “These are witnesses; they’re not defendants or suspects. They came forward on their own volition because they had information they thought was important before the state killed an innocent man and this is how they’re treated?”

Connie Johnson, a former state legislator and current chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Prater’s actions were outrageous and broke the law.

“This continual pulling back of the covers by Richard Glossip’s legal team on behind the scenes shenanigans and outright breaking of the law by state officials is both timely and informative. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s right out of CSI,” she said.

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