Lawyer accused of murder plot, racketeering
Winston Connor II is also jailed in N.C. on witness tampering complaint
Authorities in North Carolina arrested a Jay attorney accused of solicitation for first-degree murder, witness tampering and racketeering related to his contact with a convicted murderer who operated a drug ring from prison.
The 10-count state multicounty grand jury indictment against 54-year-old Winston Connor II is expected to be unsealed in Tulsa County District Court on Monday morning.
Connor is charged with racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon with an alternative of aggravated assault and battery, solicitation for murder, pandering for prostitution and obtaining unlawful proceeds.
He also faces counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, witness tampering, unlawful communication with a convict, solicitation of prostitution and committing a pattern of criminal offenses.
A copy of an arrest warrant against Connor, which the Tulsa World obtained this weekend, indicates District Judge Kelly Greenough signed the document on Nov. 16 and authorized a bond of $500,000.
He was arrested at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, Saturday evening after returning to the United States from a
Connor, of Grove, remains jailed without bond Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, where his charge is listed as “fugitive/ extradition other state.” He is due in court Monday afternoon to determine whether he will agree to waive an extradition hearing, according to online vacation in the Caribbean.
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Stan Monroe, Connor's attorney, said a lawyer in Charlotte will appear in court with Connor on Monday to determine the best way to facilitate his return to Oklahoma.
He said he was “surprised” by the charges, as well as with the manner in which Connor was apprehended, because Connor didn't get the chance to turn himself in to police once the warrant went out to law enforcement.
“We've known the investigation, at least part of it, had been going on for some time. But I haven't seen the indictment,” Monroe said Sunday afternoon. “He's a lawyer. He's not a flight risk. I thought the prosecutors would have given him the courtesy of turning himself in, but I guess it didn't happen that way.”
“I firmly believe in Winston's innocence and I will do anything I can to help him,” he said.
Co-defense attorney Paul DeMuro also issued a statement, saying “This arrest is one of the most outrageous abuses of power I've seen in 23 years of practice.
“Winston is a longtime Oklahoma lawyer in good standing ... the state has known Winston is represented by counsel. Since the arrest warrant was issued, Winston has practiced in courts throughout the northeastern part of the state on a near daily basis,” DeMuro said.
“Winston is innocent and we will fight this tooth and nail.”
The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office filed two sealed indictments against at least one person only identified as “John Doe” on Nov. 16 following three days of testimony before a multicounty grand jury. The case number stamped on the arrest warrant against Connor matches the number assigned to one of the sealed indictments.
An attorney general's office spokesman declined Sunday afternoon to comment on the contents of the arrest warrant or its investigation into the situation. A probable cause affidavit outlining by the local the basis for the charges has not yet been made public.
A previous Tulsa World investigation examined Connor's relationship with Slint Tate, a Grove man who is serving life without parole for a murder conviction, and whether Connor — Tate's then-attorney — assisted Tate with or ordered him to engage in criminal activity.
The charges are similar to those referenced in the past by Kenny Wright, the district attorney for Delaware and Ottawa counties, when his office discovered the drug ring and its participants.
Oklahoma law enforcement personnel wiretapped a phone Tate, 35, had smuggled into prison and had used to communicate with Connor in May 2016. Shortly afterward, prosecutors filed state charges against people they believe had involvement in the multi-state drug ring that reportedly brought in up to $1 million per week in sales.
Wright has charged a total of 28 people in state court in connection with the ring but did not pursue a case against Tate, noting in 2017 that he is already serving life without parole.
However, Tate and six others were named in a 25-count federal indictment in the Northern District of Oklahoma, accused of — among other crimes — conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
In that case, Tate was charged with using smuggled cellphones while incarcerated at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester to direct methamphetamine transactions in the Miami, Oklahoma, area in 2015 and 2016.
Federal court records show Tate pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy and received a sentence of 20 years in Bureau of Prisons custody followed by five years of supervised release. The term is consecutive to his prison sentence for murder.
Wright made a collection of taped phone calls between Tate and Connor public during a 2017 court hearing related to the state charges. Wright told the World at the time that prosecutors started looking at Connor's possible role in criminal activity due at least in part to his comments in the recordings.
He said he provided the tapes to federal investigators.
As a result of those statements, Connor filed a libel lawsuit against Wright, who himself filed an ethics complaint against Connor with the Oklahoma Bar Association.
At the time of the lawsuit, Monroe told the World there was “no basis” for the allegations Wright made against Connor and accused Wright of violating attorney codes in drawing publicity to potential criminal cases.
Monroe said Sunday that the libel lawsuit remains pending. In it, Connor denies having involvement in a drug ring or engaging in “organized and corrupt behavior” of any kind.
In one call Wright provided to the World, Connor can be heard discussing destroying a cellphone that Wright contends was linked to Tate's drug trafficking efforts.
Wright also alleged a man had been severely beaten after being identified during a conversation between Connor and Tate as the person who stole a vehicle belonging to Connor's secretary's family.
Connor additionally, according to Wright, spoke with Tate about another man who is serving life without parole for raping and murdering a Tulsa woman. Connor reportedly said that the man in question assaulted a woman Connor had been dating at the time.
Wright said Tate made it apparent to authorities that he understood Connor's account of the situation to him as “a request to murder the guy and began taking steps toward accomplishing that goal.”