Wonderly’s False Prosecution?
Entering a Plea Doesn't Always Mean Guilty -
Oklahoma’s due process mayhem
US~Observer works as a tool for innocent victims of false prosecution.
We are literally flooded with requests for assistance each month in
many stages of prosecution and dozens from those already convicted.
The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics has stated that
there is an estimated 8 - 12% of factually or actually innocent inmates
in state prisons, and from the research book entitled Harmful
Error, “Since 1970, individual judges and appellate
court panels cited prosecutorial misconduct as a factor when dismissing
charges, reversing convictions or reducing sentences in over 2,000 cases.
In another 500 cases, appellate judges offered opinions—either
dissents or concurrences—in which they found the misconduct warranted
a reversal. In thousands more, judges labeled prosecutorial behavior
inappropriate, but upheld convictions using a doctrine called ‘harmless
error.’’’ The US~Observer, from hands-on experience
finds the number of false prosecutions to be at least double those listed
cases such as that of Ryan Wonderly from Bethany, Oklahoma, a suburb
of Oklahoma City, who was recently sentenced to a minimum 35 year prison
term by what appears to be an outright forced *Alford Plea to 10 counts
of Indecent or Lewd Acts with a Minor and 4 counts of Rape 1 by Instrumentation
with a child, it is the perfect example of this “Harmful Error.”
Wonderly’s case is rife with potential judicial misconduct, the
complaining witnesses appear to “re-fabricate” their stories
with each telling and one even recants her testimony to a friend. In
the Wonderly case there appears to be a complete disregard for the rights
of the accused - that he is innocent until proven guilty, and the US~Observer
has accepted Ryan’s case and is moving forward.
first step is the pre-investigation and board review. Beyond listening
to the story of the convicted we amass the evidentiary documentation
that led to their imprisonment. This generally comes in the form of
all court related documentation such as pre-trial, trial and sentencing
transcripts, and any and all witness affidavits and interviews. Such
documentation either backs the claim of an unjust incarceration or shows
the convicted to be using any means necessary to get out of their rightful
cases that the US~Observer pre-investigation determines the individual
to have been legitimately convicted, the case is immediately dropped
during a board review. The US~Observer will not be used as a getaway
vehicle for a guilty individual. This would not only tarnish the Observer's
reputation of being a justice seeking publication, it would simply be
immoral. Unlike other media organizations that operate from behind a
political agenda, the US~Observer finds it more beneficial to side with
the truth, no matter what it may bring.
the pre-investigation finds that the documentation supports the claim
of justice system malfeasance and/or the evidence and/or witness testimony
can easily be refuted, as was found in the Wonderly case, then the board
elects to move forward and begin the in-depth investigation.
call upon many methods of discovery. In some cases this could be under-cover
operations that take months to conclude, while other cases can be as
simple as making one phone call to the right person who wants to do
the right thing. In many investigations it’s digging through what
seems to be endless hours of research at the local courthouse and fielding
countless phone calls to the players involved.
one of the US~Observer investigative reporters I was assigned the Wonderly
case. According to police reports and witness testimony Ryan Wonderly,
who was a youth pastor for Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany,
Oklahoma (during the time the crimes were purportedly perpetrated),
allegedly committed 23 counts of lewd acts, including rape by instrumentation,
with minor girls ranging in age from 8 to 12 who were part of his children’s
ministry or had been introduced to him by someone from the church.
part of the investigation I went back over all of our pre-investigative
materials and supplied evidence, much of which showed flawed processes
and witnesses who seemed all too willing to change their stories as
time went by and they were questioned more. But still, even with all
of the evidence showing that Ryan Wonderly got railroaded through the
system, I landed in Oklahoma City under the assumption that he was guilty.
The case for this reporter, as a father of a beautiful daughter, was
clear-cut. He had to have done it. But such is the nature of crimes
of these types. They beg of our emotions to believe the most trivial
of accusations without further discovery and I was there to do just
that, get to the bottom of it all regardless my personal feelings, so
I set about finding as much as I could.
off I spoke with Wonderly’s parents. They are a fine couple whose
faith in their son is unwavering. They firmly believe their son was
denied due process - even pressured into entering a plea by Judge Twyla
Mason Gray (who is currently up for re-election), as they witnessed
her telling their son that she thought he was guilty. According to the
Wonderlys, Judge Gray so vehemently pursued his conviction that she
even suggested he’d receive better treatment should he enter a
plea rather than going through with the already underway trial. According
to witnesses Gray said that the jury thought he was guilty and she thought
he was guilty, so if convicted she’d see fit to sentence him to
the maximum amount of time possible. Judge Gray offered Ryan Wonderly
and his counsel 10 minutes to decide if he wanted to change his innocent
to the State of Connecticut’s Common Legal Word Look-Up Web Site
an Alford Plea is: A plea in a criminal case in which the defendant
does not admit guilt, but agrees that the state has enough evidence
against him or her to get a conviction. Allows the defendant to enter
into a plea bargain with the state. If the judge accepts the Alford
Plea, a guilty finding is made on the record.
Wonderly’s said their son was confused and scared, and not wanting
to face the maximum sentence the judge threw at him, not because he
was guilty, but because he had just been told by the judge that the
jury thought he was guilty. They said he felt that if he couldn’t
get a fair trial it might just be better to take the plea and hope for
the best. Ten minutes deciding his future was over quickly and Judge
Gray allowed him an additional 10 minutes when the time expired. At
his council’s urging he came back into court and changed his plea
to that of the Alford plea.
look at the evidence on both sides of the argument, which in Wonderly’s
case was strictly witness testimony as there was never any physical
evidence of wrong-doing, suggests that Wonderly should have stuck out
his trial, regardless of the judges personal feelings toward the case.
(One has to wonder the reasons why Judge Gray’s own court reporter
says that they used to hear nothing but sex abuse cases. Perhaps there
is validity to the claims made by several Oklahomans that Judge Gray
had been abused by her Grandfather when she was a child and seeks payback
against anyone accused of such a crime. And there is evidence in other
cases of this nature where Gray was the presiding judge that she has
used the same pressuring tactics to get the alleged criminal to change
thing is for sure; should anyone be faced with their own false prosecution,
never, ever take a plea arrangement. This isn’t advice; it’s
a statement of common sense. If you are innocent, maintain it always.
Pleading to a crime makes it more difficult in further legal processes.
talking with Wonderly’s parents I set about contacting several
key witnesses and officials. The conversations I had with supporters
of Wonderly painted a picture of the alleged victim's as deceitful children
and their parents as angst-filled who put pressure on other parents
to make their children come forward with charges. These people had no
reason to lie. They were people who knew and cared for all the families
involved, knew their children and what they were capable of, and knew
Wonderly, too, some extending their homes to Wonderly more so than any
of the complainants. The investigating agencies and supporters of his
conviction were less forthcoming and I was often met with disdain even
broaching the subject.
at my hotel I siphoned through witness testimony. I kept being pulled
back to several items the girls stated. They all said they hadn’t
talked to one another about the case, but according to testimony most
had been referred to the same counselor, Vikki Reynolds. They mentioned
that they had seen each other there in her waiting room, but had never
made contact with each other. According to court transcripts it was
stated that the girls had been sent to Vikki Reynolds by the Care Center,
a victims center that’s location is a highly guarded secret. But
when talking with Vikki Reynolds she stated she knew nothing about the
Care Center and then added that she doesn’t get referrals from
them. Asking, then, what I was calling in regard to I started to pronounce
his name and was quickly cut-off and told that she had no comment.
one alleged victim's statement who suggested something happened in the
living area at her own home while her mother was in the kitchen falls
suspect as the kitchen adjoins the room and is not separated from it.
The simple fact is, if anything happened her mother would have seen
it, but the testimony made it appear that her mother was completely
out of the room. Everyone who has been to that home knows the truth
of the design layout.
is also the fact that several of the accounts of what happened would
have been physically impossible as some of Wonderly’s supporters
have tried to simulate the testimony without success.
of a sudden Wonderly’s intended defense during his trial started
making sense. He had intended on showing that there was a conspiracy
set in motion to charge him, and then convict him for something he never
did. The fact is there are plenty of parents of children who attended
Bethany First while Wonderly was a children’s pastor who will
tell you that when the first “victim” came forward, her
parents went ballistic. They called other parents threatening them saying
they’d contact the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS)
if they didn’t turn Wonderly in for what he had done, that doing
anything else would mean they didn’t care for their children.
Soon, maybe not even intentionally, there was a witch-hunt in progress.
As the allegations and pressure spread, more children stepped forward.
But in looking into how most of the children came to be charging Wonderly
for these crimes it’s clear it all stems from a contact between
many of the alleged victims and/or contact between the parents of the
to mention the one key fact that the second girl to leverage charges
later told a friend Wonderly had never done anything to her. The friend
of the alleged victim, who apparently spent more time alone with Wonderly
than anyone else maintains that he never did anything inappropriate
to her, nor anyone she saw him in contact with. So, believing the charges
totally false and having witnessed the alleged victim's admission that
nothing had ever happened, she stepped forward with what she knew, sacrificing
her friendships with all of the “alleged victims.” She was
met with disdain by the prosecutors and was questioned by a social worker
who was in direct contact with a prosecutor during her interview. She
was asked repeatedly if anyone had asked her to say these things. The
answer was simple. She just told the truth.
all of the documented evidence in regard to witness testimony, only
girls who said Wonderly had never done anything to them were asked if
someone had told them to say that. Never once was an accusing girl asked
that. Not even after initial interviews where one “victim”
states that it only happened one time, but in subsequent interviews
it became an all-the-time occurrence; or even when it was stated under
oath that they (the victims) had never talked to each other about the
case, only to have them admit they did indeed talk. Still, no one asked
them if they ever made-up or were told to say these things.
one of the accusers refused to testify, thereby negating the state’s
charges against Wonderly in that case. As earlier stated, the only evidence
key piece of testimony regarded an incident in Wonderly’s truck.
The girl alleged that Wonderly touched her while she was sitting with
him. Fortunately for Wonderly there was a witness who stated she was
watching through a nearby window and never saw the girl get into the
cab of the vehicle. Ultimately the jury never heard this testimony because
the trial was cut short. There was speculation from Wonderly supporters
that her closeness with some of the accusing families made her susceptible
to their pressure as I was told that she might even recant her testimony.
At the time of the investigation, she and her entire family were in
Mexico and not scheduled back until sometime in June. There has not
been a return phone call.
the investigation I spent days at the Oklahoma County Courthouse where
I became such a fixture that at the airport on my way out of town a
gentleman I hadn’t remembered seeing pointed in my direction and
said, “You’re the guy at the courthouse.”
… that’d be me.” I said with a smile and a wave.
had arrived with my own personal feeling that Ryan Wonderly was guilty
and having investigated the case I found enough evidence to conclude
that it offered more than a reasonable doubt. While I can not say that
Ryan Wonderly is truly innocent, I can say that he is a man who is loved
by a great many people who trust him completely. That even the accusers
wrote letters saying how they were going to miss him when he chose to
quit the employment of the church, before any of these accusations came
to be. I can say that the system let him down and Ryan Wonderly deserves
his day in court and he doesn’t deserve to be in prison.
case has shown me that sex abuse cases often rely on the basic feeling
the accusation creates in all of us – that whoever has been charged
must be guilty. The logic behind this feeling is instinctual, especially
for parents. Keeping your children free from harm is a daunting task,
and when another person allegedly preys on a child in this fashion there
is no care of proof. The person is just guilty and you keep your children
from them, no matter the evidence either way. This is why sex abuse
cases are one of the only felony criminal proceedings where a person
can be tried and convicted without there ever being one shred of physical
evidence. People pointing fingers is all it takes. Unfortunately innocents
get caught in the middle.
has currently submitted a motion for sentence modification. This is
being reviewed by none other than the presiding judge in his case, Judge
Twyla Mason Gray.
attorneys have asked for letters of support of Ryan to be sent to them:
will be very helpful to Ryan if many of his friends and family members
write letters of support to the Judge.
letters should be addressed to the Judge (Judge Twyla Mason Gray) but
mailed to Coyle Law Firm to the attention of Nita Wright ...”
Attn: Nita Wright
119 N. Robinson Suite 320
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
for one will be submitting my letter (this article); I will also be
showing my opposition to Gray being reelected through a massive media
blitz should she not do the right thing.
time we got back to our fundamentals – a person is innocent, until
PROVEN guilty – no matter our feelings. One thing that can be
said about human feelings is that they are generally confused and often
I returned to Oregon I realized this case was quickly beginning to resemble
the infamous “Wenatchee Witch-hunts” conducted in Wenatchee,
Washington in 1994-1995. During that prosecutorial frenzy 60 adults
were arrested on 29,726 charges. Many who were convicted have since
been freed by higher courts when it was found that the alleged victims
were lying. The lives of many good people were ruined in the process
of those false prosecutions, lives that will never be the same again…Could
Ryan Wonderly’s case be yet another “Witch-hunt?”
US~Observer is continuing to investigate Ryan Wonderly’s probable
false charges as there is much more evidence to back his claim of innocence
such as his psychological evaluation that he is not sexually stimulated
by young girls and the gross misinterpretation of that review by the
prosecution to the court.
would ask anyone with information in regard to this case to contact
Edward Snook or Ron Lee at 541-474-7885. One of the accusers has recanted
her false charges, which leads us to believe others should do the same.
Since the girls all attend Church and therefore should still possess
a conscience, they should do the right thing and come forward with the
truth. An agonizing young man is in prison, fearful for his safety,
spending day after day realizing the days may never end. Each child
who has made a false accusation should spend each and every day realizing
they have contributed to the destruction of another human being. Another
human being, whom the facts would lead us to believe, is likely innocent.