The attorney for former Cherokee County prosecutor Janet Bickel claimed Tuesday afternoon that drugs found in her possession last fall were planted there by “an unknown person.”

Bickel and Vyrl Keeter, offce administrator for the district attorney’s office, were in court in Wagoner Tuesday, and both were the target of indictments. They visited with friends and supporters prior to the hearing.

Donn Baker, who represents Bickel on charges in Wagoner and Oklahoma counties as a result of a multicounty grand jury probe of District Attorney Richard L. Gray’s office, said Bickel has made some enemies in her prosecutorial career, and some of those enemies could be law enforcement officers.

“You’re going to make some of them mad if you won’t file a case or you tell them they need a search warrant when they don’t think they do,” Baker said. “If she knew the drugs were there [in her purse], why would she call her boss and tell him about them? Why not just flush them or destroy them some way?”

A multicounty grand jury indictment unsealed in Wagoner alleges Bickel, 49, offered false evidence Feb. 27, 2005. She was at 510 Judy Lane in Tahlequah when a search warrant was served by the District 27 drug task force and was present when certain evidence was located and tested positive for methamphetamine. Prosecutors say she left the residence before all items were inventoried, and a baggie of methamphetamine was determined to be missing.

Law enforcement personnel contacted everyone who left and Bickel was contacted by telephone. She denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the methamphetamine at that time. Others who left the scene returned and participated in efforts to find the missing evidence.

Five days later, Bickel went to Gray and said she found the missing baggie in her purse. She submitted a baggie containing a substance that tested positive as methamphetamine to the officer responsible for maintaining evidence. Several law enforcement officers and another assistant district attorney who were with Bickel said the baggie Bickel gave to the officer was not the same one taken from the residence where the warrant was served.

Bickel was also charged with possession of a controlled drug alleging she obtained methamphetamine in her effort to replace the baggie she allegedly took from the house in Tahlequah.

“Those drugs were planted in her purse,” Baker said. “She didn’t see anyone put them there, but it makes sense.”

The other indictments unsealed Tuesday accuse Artest Vyrl Keeter, 74, of attempted subornation of perjury. The count in Wagoner County alleges Keeter attempted to get a witness testifying before the multicounty grand jury to make false statements to the panel and suggested the third party testify that static electricity caused items to stick together and that’s how the evidence was taken from the scene of the search warrant.

Keeter’s Cherokee County indictment alleges he “coached” a witness to testify that he couldn’t remember knowing such a statement would be false. Keeter told the witness about a prior grand jury situation when he could have presented incriminating evidence that may have changed the outcome of that investigation, but instead, he testified he didn’t know, or couldn’t recall, when questioned.

Baker and Mark Green, who represents Keeter, said they will ask for preliminary hearings for their clients on the charges in each county. Those will be before Associate District Judge Michael Claver of Okmulgee County. District Judge Larry Parish will be the trial judge.

Chief District Judge Bruce Sewell announced during Tuesday’s hearing that no judge within the 15th judicial district – Cherokee, Wagoner, Sequoyah, Adair and Muskogee counties – would be involved in the cases from this point.

Gray, in a prepared statement released to the media Tuesday afternoon, said Keeter has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately.

“I have been advised as to the allegations contained in the recent indictments against ex-employee Janet Bickel, and Vyrl Keeter,” Gray said. “This situation will be addressed by those individuals affected and their respective counsel. “

Gray said he respects the purpose of the multicounty grand jury and remains confident in justice.

“I was elected by the citizens of Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties to do a job,” he said. “My staff and I will continue to prosecute cases and represent the citizens of District 27.”

The investigation is ongoing, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. The multicounty grand jury is scheduled to reconvene Feb. 21.


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