Former Muskogee cop faces new felony charge

·4 min read

Oct. 20—A former Muskogee police officer serving a 10-year deferred sentence for kidnapping and assaulting his then estranged wife faces a felony charge in Cherokee County for aggravated assault and battery.

The charge, for which an arrest warrant was issued May 19 but never executed, arises from events alleged to have occurred Feb. 5 at the Dam Bar, north of Fort Gibson. Mark Vernon Ridley Jr., 47, is accused of grabbing a woman's wrist and breaking it as she attempted to help a friend involved in an altercation.

Mindy Pinord, according to an affidavit filed by Cherokee County Deputy Jimmy Tannehill in support of the application for an arrest warrant, pushed her way through a crowd gathered around the altercation. On the way, she encountered a man, identified later as Ridley, who allegedly cursed her and squeezed her wrist until it snapped.

Pinord and a friend reportedly began gathering their things to leave. By the time she arrived home, which according to Tannehill's affidavit was about a 30-minute drive from the bar, Pinord knew there was something wrong with her wrist.

X-rays taken at Wagoner Community Hospital, according to Tannehill's affidavit, confirmed the woman's wrist was fractured and would have to be set and cast. She reportedly was referred to an orthopedic specialist.

Tannehill states in his affidavit that Pinord identified Ridley in a photograph while waiting in the hospital emergency room at Wagoner. According to Tannehill's affidavit, Pinord expressed some reluctance about filing the report due to Ridley's history as a former police officer and prior felony charges to which he pleaded no contest.

"Mindy stated after much thought she believed this man should have consequences for his actions," Tannehill states in the affidavit. "Mindy stated at this time she would like to press charges against Mark Ridley Jr."

Online court dockets show a warrant was issued for Ridley's arrest on May 19, when the Cherokee County District Attorney's Office filed criminal information alleging one count of aggravated assault and battery.

Muskogee County Sheriff Andy Simmons said he learned about the warrant late last week after receiving a call from the Muskogee Phoenix. Simmons said he confirmed the validity of the warrant with Cherokee County District Court Clerk's Office, which sent "me a copy of the warrant, and we told our guys to put it on the clipboard."

Simmons said he received a call later that night from Ridley's lawyer Janet Bickel Hutson, who said the warrant had been recalled. Simmons said he has "no idea" about how Ridley's lawyer learned about the outstanding warrant in Cherokee County.

Hutson said she learned about the outstanding warrant late last week after "somebody brought it to my attention." She confirmed the information online and called to scheduled a date for Ridley to surrender.

"My client is presumed innocent — when he surrenders he will have to post a bond just like everybody else, he will not get special treatment," Bickel Hutson said. "It's not our fault the warrant was issued in May and here we are in October — we didn't know it existed."

Assistant District Attorney Eric Jordan said it is not uncommon in Cherokee County to recall a felony arrest warrant when a "defendant retains counsel and that counsel is someone that is well known to the court." He said while that may irritate those who want to see a defendant "locked up and all of that," a well-known lawyer can "call up and we usually will sign off on recalling the warrant" and set a hearing.

Jordan said he was unaware about Ridley's history as a police officer or that Ridley pleaded no contest in 2017 in Muskogee County to kidnapping, and assaulting and battering his ex-wife with a dangerous weapon, and possessing a firearm while committing a felony. He also was unaware that Ridley is serving a deferred sentence, which means the judge will defer a finding of guilt until Ridley completes his probation, despite his earlier plea.

"I assure you there was no thought of favoritism here — the fact he's a former police officer carries no weight with me," Jordan said. "If anything, that's a negative because he's the kind of guy that shouldn't be doing these kinds of things he's accused of doing, so I would say that does not work well in his favor."

The terms of Ridley's probation requires among other things that he abides by all laws, and violating the terms of probation could provide grounds to accelerate a deferred sentence. Simmons said he would notify the Muskogee County District Attorney's Office about the charge filed against Ridley in Cherokee County.

Ridley is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Oct. 27 in Cherokee County District Court.

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