CrimeTown

Mother Files Complaint Against Luther Judge

A Stroud mother has filed a complaint in the Town of Luther against the Town’s Municipal Judge after she sat through court the day her son appeared on a traffic violation and was almost sent to jail by Judge Stephen Haynes. Penny Richardson, in a letter to Mayor Jenni White, outlined the experience from October 2 through an email.

photo by Megan Garrett

“Today I had the displeasure of accompanying my son to traffic court in your town. To say I was very dissatisfied would be an understatement.

My son agreed to plead no contest to a following too closely citation. Agreement was probation for 6 months and $260 fine. He was given a form to request a payment plan. The judge flat out denied my son, and every other person who applied for a time pay application. Not only was the judge rude and hateful in his tone, he was almost an hour late to arrive in the first place, for which a person would have received a bench warrant issued had the roles been reversed.

When I found out they were going to take my son to COUNTY jail over a town traffic citation, I was livid! He does not have a record nor does he have a history of traffic violations. He was given a ticket on his way from work. He was not speeding, he had insurance, his car was legal. He was only misfortunate enough to be behind a vehicle that saw the police officer and hit his brakes, causing my son to be pulled over for following too closely. Is that really something worth being sent to county jail for??
My son is a single dad going through a divorce trying to get custody of his daughter.

I am not made of money and I always make my kids pay if they break the law. I have a “no bond, don’t call mom” kind of thing with them. My son knows this. He did not ask me, since I was with him he just turned to me and said, “Guess I’m going to jail, please pick my daughter up from school.” I stood up and said this is one time I will pay!

My husband is a disabled/retired army Veteran. We live on a fixed income so money doesn’t flow thru our veins. He has been to war defending my rights as well as others. Today my son’s rights were violated. Because of a power hungry UNFIT JUDGE.
I will never come to or thru your town again, and will warn others or unfair treatment in the legal system there.
I will say this in NO way reflects on ANY of your police officers. They were very kind and helpful. I have great respect for them. They were doing their jobs, and correctly.

My son was not the only one treated unfairly today. He and I just happened to be the ones willing to speak out. Everyone else is afraid of ramifications that they fear could happen if speaking out against Judge Stephen H. I for one will NEVER be intimidated.”

Sincerely,
Penny Richardson.
Stroud,OK
The Town of Luther holds municipal court for mostly traffic violations a couple of times a month on Wednesday mornings. Those who appear might have to miss work to attend; those who have not paid their tickets by the court date and do not show up for court are issued a bench warrant, and could be arrested. The Luther Register has observed court intermittently since 2016. Customarily, before the judge enters the courtroom, the town prosecutor meets with everyone on the docket to review their tickets and weigh options which involves paying fines and court costs to the small municipality in eastern Oklahoma County, or go to “trial.”
On traffic violations, the defendants might agree to a plea like Richardson’s son, Chevy Lovett, did that amounts to paying the fine and going on “probation.” Defendants must have no additional traffic violations and must submit that record to the court before their probation period ends. Many defendants ask for “time pay,” to pay their fines, that sometimes may be several hundred dollars; but prosecutor Brent Coldiron informs a defendant that they can ask but “this judge is very strict.” When a defendant asks for “time pay,” they must completely fill out a form that lists their income and bills. Coldiron also encourages defendants to “go to the lobby and use the phone and call someone who loves you and believes in you to come pay this fine for you.” If the fine isn’t paid that day by the time court is over, the defendant could go to the Oklahoma County or Lincoln County jail, and jail fees will also be applied to the defendant’s fine.
When denying payment plans, Judge Haynes has told defendants that they are paying a fine, which is a consequence for breaking the law, and not paying debt for which they can apply for credit. However, Haynes has allowed some defendants to do community service to pay off their fines.

In this case, Mayor Jenni White apologized to Richardson and said the town’s court system is becoming a “front burner” issue.

Ms. Penny,

I am embarrassed beyond words to hear of your experience here in our traffic court.
Unfortunately, you are not the only person to bring this situation to light in recent months. Beginning my term here several years ago was quite a challenge in a number of ways and it is also unfortunate, that in dealing with other situations needing immediate attention due to a previous lack of such, I – and other Board members – neglected turning a focus on our court at an earlier point in our tenure.
I can assure you that this situation is now under our watchful eye and we are taking the steps necessary to mitigate your concern.
Please forgive our previous inattention to this situation so that you and your son were forced to have the unpleasant experience you had in our court this morning. That is not an experience we hope for visitors to our Town – no matter the circumstances for your visitation – to have.
Again, many apologies and very sincerely,
Jenni White
Mayor
Luther, Oklahoma
Mayor White said the Town attorney has shared the complaint with the judge and a meeting is being scheduled.
Haynes is a municipal judge in several municipalities. In addition to Luther, he has serves on the bench in Valley Brook, Forest Park, Nichols Hills, Geary, and has been a “special” municipal judge in Choctaw. He is paid $850 monthly for his service on Luther’s municipal court.
Thank you for reading.

dawnshelton

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13 Comments

  1. Go Ms. Richardson! Also, the fines are predatory and much higher than Edmond or OKC. A ticket for the above “infraction” is ridiculous. A warning at the most. The revenue stream created on the backs of people that really cannot afford such is morally wrong. And I have heard the speech about basically calling every one you know or who loves you so you dont go to jail…. Shame.

  2. The whole business of traffic law has evolved into a money-machine for municipalities — whose courts are all-too-typically in the hands of half-cocked, smart-aleck “lawyers-in-black-robes” who don’t give a rip about the basics of constitutional rights. They just want the money — and the lows to which they will stoop to get it could be classified as black comedy.

  3. Everyone I’ve ever known that had come into contact with this judge has said he’s mean and hateful. I understand being strict but not mean.

  4. Luther is well known to be a crooked town. The last chief of police is pending criminal charges, tells a lot right there.

  5. Way to go Penny. I hope the OHP can stop these crooked cops and judges from stopping people on major highways. this is corruption at its finest in Luther.
    They need to fire the judge or maybe someone can turn the tables on these crooks.

  6. The city of Jones is about the same I quit going through there it is a speed trap. It’s a shame that people can no longer treat others with respect. Maybe he needs to be voted out.

  7. I have had the pleasure of not only being stopped in Luther for speeding when i wasn’t, but also dealing with this judge. He is just a mean person. I wanted to contest my charge and go to trial and he denied it and made me pay the ticket. I didn’t even get the chance to go to trial. Telling me “that is for people with a perfect driving record”. I avoid Luther in every way i can now. The cops and the judge in that town will do what they can to get their money.

  8. Sure seems like this judge had a bad day or something. While it is wise to always arrive at court prepared to pay, it does seem unusual that NO payment plans were allowed this court session.

  9. My experience with this dynamic duo (Judge and prosecutor ) and it was quite a production they put on, was the most humiliating traffic court experience I’ve ever had. After realizing that the prosecutor was not even interested in my comments about the ticket, and understanding that according to this court I had no defense against the charge. I was also told that I probably was a person who doesn’t know how to take responsibility and blames all my problems on others. It was clear to me that I better play the game their way or possibly be thrown in jail for a very simple speeding ticket(45 in 35) clean driving record 0 points. I knew not to say what I was thinking about him (The prosecutor), but somehow he felt entitled to sum me up in the 3 minutes I spoke to him, before the judge came out. I’ve been in the medical field for nearly 30 years with a license that renews every 2 years, so I felt it was better to shut my mouth and protect my profesional license. The experience made me feel ashamed of the little town that I have recently became a part of, and felt sad for all the others in the courtroom, many trying to be respectful but not finding any respect in that court just a quick dismissal. The costs for the tickets are outrageous, surely we can find ways to support the town without it breaking the backs of its citizens and running off visitors. Sure wished I would’ve thought to write to the mayor, thank you dawnshelton for this article and allowing my comment.

  10. I have lived in the town of Luther for 6 years. I have been in front of this judge more then once. I have seen people get up and leave due to not having the money to pay the fine. I myself have had to put my fines on credit cards to get them paid. He expects someone to pay $500 to $800 fines at once. That is a lot of money for some people that live on a fixed income. This is a small town and most people that live here have a low income. A lot of teenagers get fines also and have no job or a part time job. I have been told that his process gets the fines paid at a higher % rate. That is great for the town but not the people that live or visit here.

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