Apr. 8—A prosecutor charged with investigating an incident in which District 3 Pittsburg County Commissioner Ross Selman is accused of forcibly removing two signs designating "Police Only" parking places says there is enough evidence to file a charge in the case.
However, District 16 District Attorney Jeff Smith's office has agreed not to charge Selman with a crime as long as he meets conditions of a two-year deferred prosecution agreement, including paying $75.64 restitution for damage to the two city of McAlester signs, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the News-Capital.
Both Selman and District 16 Assistant District Attorney Max Moss signed the deferred prosecution agreement.
The matter revolved around an incident that occurred nearly two years ago after McAlester police wrote Selman a ticket for parking in a a no parking zone on First Street.
After getting the ticket, Selman took a hammer and beat two signs designating parking areas for police loose from the curb to which they were attached near the intersection of Second Street and Carl Albert Parkway, adjacent to the east side of the Pittsburg County Courthouse. The signs were then left in a crumpled heap in front of City Hall.
A copy of a security video for April 11, 2019, obtained by the News-Capital under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, shows a truck pulling into a parking place near the signs on the east side of the courthouse and a man, identified by police as Selman, begin to beat on the signs with a hammer.
It took approximately five minutes of near-constant pounding to remove both signs from the sidewalk.
Following the incident, the News-Capital asked Selman if he had removed the two "Police Only" signs.
"Yeah. That was after several county 'hands' and people in the courthouse got tickets," he said.
"I just opened up those two parking spots," Selman said. "I'm fighting for my people."
County commissioners had agreed in 2016 to designate the two parking spaces for for police parking only at the request of McAlester police.
Soon after the incident, McAlester police began an investigation regarding Selman on complaints of malicious injury/ destruction of property and turned the information over to prosecutors. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter assigned Smith to handle the case in April 2019, after District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan recused himself and his office from handling it because of a conflict of interest.
The deferred prosecution agreement Selman and Moss signed on March 26, 2021 says:
"The District Attorney hereby states that he has sufficient evidence at this time to charge the accused (Selman) with the crime of malicious injury to property, a misdemeanor.
"That is to to say, on or about the 11th day of April, 2019, in the County of Pittsburg, State of Oklahoma, the accused did then and there, unlawfully, willingly, knowingly and wrongfully damage parking signs and belonging to the city of McAlester... by removing said signs with a hammer, and causing a loss valued at less than $1,000," the document states.Prosecutors agreed to defer or delay the filing of a criminal charge and information against Selman as long as he continues to meet conditions in the deferred prosecution agreement. They include:
—Selman will not violate laws or ordinances of any city, state, or of the federal government, excluding traffic laws.
—It will be a violation of the agreement should Selman not tell the truth or misrepresent the truth to any branch of the government or its representative.
—The agreement states a stay on the deferred prosecution program depends entirely on Selman's conduct and should the terms and conditions of the agreement be violated, the district attorney may choose to terminate the agreement and file criminal charges.
If Selman satisfactorily concludes the terms the agreement, the state of of Oklahoma agrees not to file charges against him in the case.
The News-Capital asked Selman about the sign-removing investigation earlier this week, before learning of the deferred prosecution agreement, which was not on-file at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.
Selman said the matter was resolved. When asked how the situation was resolved, Selman said "I bought their sign" and the matter had been deferred for two years, but he did not have to a make a courtroom appearance. He said he had gone to City Hall and met with City Manager Pete Stasiak.
"We handled all of it in Pete's office," Selman said. Asked when he met with Stasiak, Selman said didn't recall the exact date.
"A week or two ago," he said. "Things are all better now. Our relationship now, over the past two years, is better than what it's been before."
He attributed his removal of the signs to a misunderstanding. "Initially, the county believed we owned the curb and the sidewalk," he said, referring to the curbs and sidewalks adjacent to the courthouse. He said he's since learned the city owns it, although the county is required to maintain it."
The News-Capital spoke with Stasiak about his meeting with Selman at City Hall.
"Mr. Selman apologized for his actions, apologized to the people of McAlester and paid for replacement of the damaged signs," Stasiak said. The city manager said city produces the signs, so the amount paid by Selman includes materials and labor.
Stasiak also said he met in his office with Moss, but not at the same time as with Selman. Stasiak said he was OK with the agreement presented by Moss.
"I felt that was reasonable," Stasiak said. "Mr. Selman was extremely apologetic." Stasiak said he considered the matter closed from the city's standpoint.
Did Stasiak confer with Police Chief Kevin Hearod before making the decision to consider the case closed?
"No, I did not," said Stasiak said. Why not? "I think I have the authority to take care of that," he said.
The News-Capital also spoke with Police Chief Hearod and investigator Lt. Preston Rodgers to see if they had any updated information on the matter. They both said they had heard nothing.
Told that Selman said he paid for the sign and Stasiak said he considered the matter resolved, Hearod said if the damages have been paid and the victim, meaning the city of McAlester, no longer wanted to prosecute, that was OK with him.
"That's not uncommon," he said. "We're perfectly fine with that."
Rodgers, asked if he'd heard anything new about the case, said the last thing he'd heard had been months ago, when Smith's office asked for some additional information, which he provided. Rodgers said that's last he'd heard.
The News-Capital also got in touch with Moss, who referred all questions to Smith.
Asked about the matter, Smith said "We entered into a deferred prosecution agreement.
"He paid for the sign and apologized to the city manager," Smith said of the agreement with Selman.
Smith said under the deferred prosecution agreement "The prosecutor and the individual agree there's evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
"We agreed that within two years, if there's another transgression, we can pick it up." That would be similar to a probation violation, Smith said. Not only could the state prosecute for any new offense, it could go back and file a charge on the prosecution that's been deferred, he said.
Smith noted that at this point, no charges have been filed.
Asked about the nearly two years it has taken to resolve the case after it was assigned to him by the state attorney general's office, Smith said "It was through no fault of anybody's.
"Each department has its own caseload and I've had some turnover in staff," said Smith. He said he felt the matter was taken care of in a timely manner after he assigned Moss to handle the case for his office.
The News-Capital requested a public record of the deferred prosecution agreement, which Smith and Moss made available.
District 18 District Attorney Sullivan had recused himself and his office from acting as prosecutors in the case in 2019, after McAlester police turned the results of their initial investigation over to him, because his office represents the Pittsburg County commissioners, including Selman.
"I represent him in his official capacity," Sullivan said in April 2019. "I believe he was acting in his official capacity. It creates a conflict for me."
That's when the AG's office appointed Smith, who is district attorney for LeFlore and Latimer counties, to handle the matter.
Selman previously paid a city of McAlester $75 traffic ticket for parking in the "no parking" zone on First Street — after he lost a June 2019 municipal court battle against paying it.
Selman contended he had previously spoken with Stasiak and then-Police Chief Gary Wansick regarding that particular "no parking" space on First Street. Selman said he had asked that it be changed to a regular parking space.
"We all agreed to change that to a regular parking spot," Selman said in 2019. He said he took that to mean he could park in the "no parking space" until the designation was changed.
"I thought we had a gentlemen's agreement," Selman told the News-Capital in 2019.
When asked about the matter at the time, neither Stasiak or Wansick said they thought there was any sort of "gentlemen's agreement" to allow Selman to park in the "no parking" zone.
Wansick said he had spoken with city Traffic Engineer David Laughlin, who told him traffic guidelines would not allow the "no parking" space on First Street to be converted into a regular parking space.
It's adjacent to driveway leading from First Street down to a parking lot, with the driveway sometimes also used by pedestrians. Having the "no parking" slot in place allows for greater visibility for those entering or exiting the area.
Stasiak indicated he's now ready to move forward.
"I'm glad it's behind us," said Stasiak. "I'm glad it's been resolved and been taken care of."
During the initial conversation with Selman, the News-Capital asked him if there were any lessons learned from the sign-removing incident.
"You should be able to remove it, maybe not with a hammer," said Selman.
"Maybe I should have went and got my screwdriver."
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.