Former Muskogee County District Attorney John David Luton’s office destroyed thousands of computer files needed to prosecute cases, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan called the deletion “unbelievable and unconscionable.”
“It also appears to be a deliberate act and one that was done in the two weeks prior to the new district attorney taking office,” McMahan said.
Almost 9,000 files were deleted from just one computer, including on Dec. 29, when a state auditor was in the Muskogee office. Auditors found evidence files also were deleted from two other office computers.
A file shredding program was installed and accessed on a computer in the office at 5:40 p.m. on Dec. 21.
Luton, an assistant prosecutor for Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, told the Phoenix he did not instruct anyone to delete office files — “absolutely not.”
Luton said he does not condone what happened and was unaware of it.
McMahan’s computer forensic team was able to recreate files that show an office computer in the main office contained files with names such as HotLink/Date a Hottie and SexOnline and a variety of gambling locations.
The audit states no files were available to restore from the server for two of the former users, the financial officer (Nancy Phillips) and the victim/witness coordinator (Amanda “Mandy” Morris). There also were few files to restore for two other users, the chief of staff and chief investigator (Gary Sturm) and an assistant district attorney.
Auditors found $88,700 in restitution collected for victims sitting in a bank account instead of being paid to victims it was intended to help, McMahan said.
That victim list included the city of Muskogee. A defendant paid Luton’s office $3,030 over a two-year period for alleged vandalism to Honor Heights Park. As of Dec. 31, the last day of Luton’s term, none of the money had been paid to the city, the audit states.
Another defendant paid full restitution of $1,000 on June 28, 2005, but as of Dec. 31, 2006, the victim had not been paid.
A defendant paid Luton’s office approximately $15,050 in restitution from Aug. 15, 2003, through July 28, 2005, which was to go to the Presbyterian Church. The money subsequently was paid to the church, the audit said. However, from Sept. 2, 2005, through Dec. 12, 2006, the defendant paid Luton’s office an additional $4,050, which had not been disbursed to the victim church on Dec. 31, 2006.
Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore’s office has paid out $30,000 in restitution Luton’s office had received but never sent to victims.
Auditors found payment ledgers in Luton’s office were inaccurate and unreliable because all information was not being recorded. Records weren’t reconciled with the county treasurer’s ending balance, auditors said.
The audit report said at least 4 1/2 years of records (receipts, deposits, vouchers, defendants’ files and treasurer reports) will have to be reviewed to determine the victims to be paid. The report said that could take months.
“It’s not good,” McMahan said.
During the audit, Luton’s office was unable to locate five of seven defendants’ files being tested. Court files had to be obtained for the audit review.
As to whether it was illegal to destroy the state files, McMahan said his office is a fact-finding agency and that it’s left to the district attorney or attorney general to determine if any criminal activity took place.
Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore, who defeated Luton in the Democrat primary and was sworn into office in January, said destroying state property would be a violation of the law.
He said he will request the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to try to determine “who destroyed the files and who requested them to be destroyed.”
The latest audit took place from Dec. 27 to 29. Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office requested the audit to “... ascertain the existence or nonexistence of inventories, accounts, property safe combinations and other information necessary to a smooth and successful transition ...”
Moore said he had been unable to get information on certain accounts and inventories from Luton.
McMahan said Moore and his staff located approximately $2,500 in cash and money orders (victim restitution) that had not been receipted or deposited after they moved into the office.
They also located approximately $890 in cash and property in a basement safe. The former district attorney employees did not disclose the existence of the cash or property to auditors during the December audit. The safe contained:
• A sealed FBI evidence bag with a watch, one necklace with a Krugerrand medallion and a chain, an earring and an old chain in a sealed plastic bag.
• A brown sack with a pistol and assorted family pictures inside.
• A large envelope of trial exhibits.
• Four gold-plated rings, two with diamonds (horse shoe and cluster) and a gold-plated money clip.
Auditors found not only office files deleted, but could not locate computer software that was deleted.
The deleted items left the Moore’s office “inert” until available software could be reinstalled, McMahan said.
Other audit findings include:
• A lack of internal controls — there were no records indicating the office reconciled monthly with the county treasurer’s records. Canceled vouchers were not reissued, and on one occasion fees were deposited in the wrong account.
• Cash and money orders were not deposited within the required 10 days, and in one instance, it took 338 days.
In addition to paying out money to reconstruct files, Moore’s office was required to pay a total of $121,501.08 in accrued vacation pay to former Luton employees and accrued sick leave, which was paid to the state and will count on time served at retirement.
The Phoenix, under the Open Records Act, obtained the following amounts paid: Gary Sturm, $18,038.67 in vacation pay and $11,717.12 in sick leave; Nancy Phillips, $13,850.84 in vacation; Richard Morris, $18,522.78 vacation and $7,881.84 sick leave; Sam Taylor, $11,322.78 vacation; Dick Huitt, $11,980.97 vacation and $10,198.94 sick leave; David Pierce, $21,480.52 vacation.
Luton says he does not condone what happened and was unaware of it
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