in OKC -
The Continued Imprisonment
of Ryan Wonderly
By Ron Lee
City, OK - In the last issue of the US~Observer we covered
the Oklahoma case of Ryan
who had been charged, forced to plea, and was sentenced to and is currently
serving 35 years for allegedly committing 23 counts of lewd acts, including
rape by instrumentation with minor girls who were part of his children’s
ministry at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene. Ryan Wonderly, still
fearful of his safety, sits in prison awaiting his day of vindication,
but according to the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) web site there
has been no update on his case since May 11, 2006. The US~Observer find
this highly disturbing as there was to have been a filing of sentence
modification in June of '06 and we fear that Mr. Wonderly's day of justice
is still several battles away.
are so many questions in Wonderly's case that should it have been taken
all the way through trial, the jury would have been privy to so much
information it would have been almost impossible for them to say that
there was no reasonable doubt, but this isn't the way justice is served-up
in Oklahoma City by Judge Twyla Mason Gray. It has been brought to the
attention of the US~Observer by even more individuals who feel they
have been damaged by Judge Gray's tactic to coerce many defendants in
the criminal cases she over-sees (as a supposed impartial judge) - especially
in sex abuse related cases - by telling them that she thinks they are
guilty and that she will give them a harsher sentence should they not
take a plea deal, exactly as what happened with Wonderly.
a 2004 interview with Albert Alschuler, a professor of law and criminology,
by PBS's FRONTLINE Alschuler was asked if plea bargaining connects to
justice. His response, "Plea bargaining has nothing to
do with justice. It has to do with convenience, expediency, making the
life of prosecutors and defense attorneys easier and more profitable.
It's designed to avoid finding out the truth. It's designed to avoid
hearing the defendant's story. I mean, what's a more basic component
of justice than if you're going to lock somebody up, you ought to hear
whatever he has to say in his defense first? Isn't that the most basic
element of procedural justice? If you have something to say, if you
have a story to tell, we want to hear it. We don't want to punish you
unless we're convinced that you've done something wrong. …"
Judge Gray isn't interested in justice when she seeks to silence these
charged individuals by forcing them to take a plea. Wonderly is one
of the many that have faced this sort of judicial behavior and found
himself in jail for something he still maintains he is innocent of.
While Judge Gray's tactics are reprehensible so, too, is the behavior
of the defense attorneys who bow to this pressure and represent to their
clients that this may be what is best. For if it wasn't for them, the
truly innocent would perhaps be granted their rightful ruling of "not
guilty" in the due process of a jury trial, but then again, where
is the money in that?
are, however, rumors that Judge Gray along with Wonderly's lawyer John
Coyle III are being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bar for undisclosed
improprieties of law, but this was neither confirmed nor denied by State
Bar Investigators who failed to respond. Should this rumored investigation
be true and the outcome find that Judge Gray and others acted inappropriately,
it would go a long way toward helping Wonderly achieve what he is rightfully
due, his day in court.
that is only one of Wonderly's possible victories. Recently it was the
US~Observer’s honor to speak with David Prater who is running
against the current OKC District Attorney Wes Lane for that position.
From a biography on Prater's web site, "Whether serving on
the front lines as a police officer or seeking justice as a public prosecutor,
David Prater has dedicated over eighteen years to fighting crime and
began his law enforcement career at 19 years of age when he was hired
by the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sheriff.
At the age of 20, Prater became the youngest cadet ever to graduate
from the Norman Police Academy. During his time with the NPD, Prater
was a dedicated and respected Master Police Officer. In addition to
his patrol duties, David was a member of NPD’s Tactical Unit,
Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team and the Norman Police Department’s
Pistol Team. Additionally, Prater was responsible for training other
officers in patrol techniques, firearms, and Emergency Vehicle Operations
and was awarded more than 20 commendations from Norman’s Chief
1988, Prater left the police department to complete his Law Enforcement
Administration Degree from the University of Oklahoma. In 1991, Prater
began law school at the University of Oklahoma, graduating in just two
and a half years. From 1993 until 2001, Prater served Oklahoma County
and the state as an Assistant District Attorney under Bob Macy and as
an Assistant Attorney General, in the Grand Jury Unit, under Attorney
General Drew Edmondson.
the last four years, Prater has maintained a private law practice in
Oklahoma City, with the firm of Huddleston, Pike, Henderson, Cusack
asked during the conversation if there was any recourse for Wonderly
if he were to be elected District Attorney he stated, "If someone
was to introduce a case to me, I'd be willing to look into it and go
over all of the records ... It's not just about prosecuting current
cases but making sure justice has been had in all." While he made
no claims to be able to help Wonderly, he is a man who is committed
to ensuring the integrity of the system. A system that by many accounts
is currently broken.
Note: We will continue to monitor Ryan Wonderly's case and pursue his
vindication. Please log on to usobserver.com to read the first story
on Ryan Wonderly.