Oklahoma: House Resolution asks judicial disciplinary commission to remove judge who accepted a plea bargain in a child rape case; similar resolutions filed in 2010 & 2011

Yesterday a resolution was filed in the Oklahoma House asking for the state’s judicial disciplinary commission (Court on the Judiciary, Trial Division) to investigate District Judge Wallace Coppedge and remove him from office.

Judge Coppedge is accused of violating the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct in accepting the plea deal agreed to by the prosecutor and defense counsel in the case of Benjamin Petty who plead guilty to raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp. The plea agreement included no jail time and 15 years probation. The prosecutor who agreed to the deal has been forced to resign.

HR 1025 as filed claims Judge Wallace’s decision not “to reject the terms of the negotiated plea bargain constitutes a gross neglect of duty.”

The resolution is almost identical to ones filed in 2010 (HR 1065) and 2011 (HR 1001) against District Judge Thomas Bartheld who in  June 2009 excepted a plea bargain approved of by “The district attorney, child’s family, advocates and the defendant.” In that case the defendants plead no contest of raping and sodomizing a 5-year-old girl and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, 19 of which are suspended. The case made national headlines, with Bill O’Reilly mentioning the judge by name on his show seven times. Neither resolution advanced and Judge Bartheld remained on the bench.