OTTAWA/DELAWARE COUNTY – Recorded cell phone wiretap conversations and text messages, linking Delaware and Ottawa County attorney Winston H. Connor II with Slint Tate’s drug ring, were released to the media on Wednesday, Aug. 30 by Oklahoma Judicial District 13 District Attorney Kenny Wright.
Wright confirmed Wednesday, Connor is under investigation in connection with Tate’s RICO [Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization] drug ring, for his possible involvement in the destruction of evidence, an instance of assault and battery, and an alleged solicitation for murder.
Wright said he provided copies of the wiretaps to state and federal investigators. He also plans to present the evidence to the Oklahoma Bar Association’s general counsel.
Copies of the wiretaps have also been provided to each defense attorney connected to Tate's drug activities.
Connor, Wright said, may face criminal charges in connection to the wiretap evidence, and also disbarment from the bar association for “potential professional misconduct.” As of press time, no charges have been filed.
When contacted, by phone and text message, about his possible involvement with the Slint Tate wiretap, Connor replied by text “I had ‘no involvement’.” He did not answer subsequent messages.
Tate's drug organization is accused of distributing marijuana and methamphetamine ranging from a few grams to multiple pounds, as well as the crimes of breaking and entering, obtaining stolen property, assaults, and additional criminal activity in northeast Oklahoma.
Ottawa and Delaware County authorities made numerous arrests of Tate’s associates in May 2016, in what Wright has described as one of the bigger meth and marijuana rings in Oklahoma.
At least 28 defendants faced felony charges in connection to the ring's criminal activities. The Delaware County cases have since been transferred to Ottawa County District Court for prosecution.
Tate, 33, is serving a life sentence, with out the possibility of parole, at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester for killing Delaware County Sheriff’s Special Deputy Vernie Roberts on July 19, 1999, while Roberts and his wife, were transporting the then-juvenile offender to a detention facility.
About the wiretap
The wiretap involves approximately 150 to 200 hours of conversations and text messages from May 2016, to and from two different cell phones in Tate’s possession.
Initially introduced as part of the Ottawa County District Court cases involving RICO members and defendants Chon Huffman and Adam Wilderman, the wiretaps have since been entered into court record and were made available to the media this week.
Tate allegedly used the two phones from his prison cell to run his organization.
The wiretaps were obtained as part of the investigation into Tate’s RICO dealings by members of the District 13 [Delaware and Ottawa County] District Attorney’s Drug Taskforce, and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Wright said the wiretap was obtained through clearance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, in accordance with state law.
In a telephone conversation, recorded by the wiretap at 1:14 p.m., on May 4, 2016, Tate contacted Connor at his law office in Jay, to discuss the theft of a blue Kia owned by one of Connor’s legal assistants.
In the conversation, an outraged Connor can be heard talking to Tate about the theft of Tiffany White Hopkins’ car by one of Tate's cohorts. Hopkins was also present during the call and Connor can be heard on the wiretap asking her questions.
In the 16 minute and 28 second conversation, marked No. 10113, Connor is heard telling Tate to get Hopkins’ car back, and to make it clear to his people not to mess with Connor or his associates. He and Tate also discuss having Tate's RICO member named Dakota “smashed out” or beaten by other RICO members.
“Leave him [an unnamed man] and Tiffany the f**k alone, pretend they don’t exist,” Connor told Tate. “I guarantee not only do I want nothing to happen to [them] … They don’t f**k with my people.”
Tate responds he will take care of the issue, saying, “we’re all family, we grew up together.”
Wright said Tate later agreed to record the beating of Dakota for the car theft for Connor, and to return Hopkins’ car.
On the wiretap, Connor offers to help do something to get Tate’s sentence reduced. He also agrees to dispose the phone Tate’s people used to contact Hopkins’ family.
“This phone never goes f**king anywhere,” Connor said. “I’ll destroy it, I’ll burn it. I’ll take it in pieces, and put it in the bottom of the f**king lake personally.”
Later in the conversation, Connor can be heard telling Tate about Sterling Williams, who was convicted of attempted rape and murder of a woman, who roomed with a former girlfriend of Connor’s in Tulsa.
Connor told Tate that Williams attempted to strangle and kill his friend, but she was able to escape with her life.
“Years ago, [Williams was] given a death sentence, sitting on death row,” Connor told Tate. “His case was overturned, and was just resentenced because of an appeal issue, so he just pled to life without parole.
“Just an FYI brother.”
To which Tate responded, “I gotcha brother.”
Wright confirmed the phone conversation ended after the alleged hit on Williams was ordered. He said authorities contacted Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials to take measures to ensure Williams’ safety.
Wright said authorities then decided to suspend the wiretap, after Tate allegedly ordered a hit on another associate. Authorities decided to step in, Wright said, to ensure the man’s life was spared.
“They are a pretty paranoid lot,” Wright said, describing Tate and his crew. “[Tate] was always trying to figure out who was snitching on him.”
Several of Tate's RICO members have received sentences, connected to their criminal cases. Others have taken pleas, while many defendants’ cases remain in legal process.
Wright said he is waiting to see what charges state and federal authorities level against those involved in the RICO case before moving forward with his district court cases.
However, Wright said he would like to see Tate prosecuted in federal court for his crimes.
For a time, Wright said, prison officials placed Tate in administrative segregation at McAlester. Tate has since returned to the general population, and has allegedly resumed communication with people outside of his prison cell through Facebook and with a cell phone.
Wright said, to date, prison officials have been unable to find any electronic devices or phones, when searching Tate’s cell.
“Indirectly, we know [Tate] has continued to have communication with the outside world,” Wright said “The goal is that he gets indicted and sent to federal prison, to get him out of the Oklahoma system. That’s the hope.”
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.