Investigation underway after Oklahoma County inmate 'lost in system' for nearly 8 months


    KOKH

    OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - An investigation is underway after an Oklahoma County inmate spent nearly eight months behind bars without a court date.

    A local judge issued a court-sanctioned check of all inmates in the jail Friday after learning Charles Lemons was lost in the criminal justice system for months.

    "It’s terrifying to think one can be there and lost in the system," said county commissioner Kevin Calvey.

    County court documents show that people taken into custody must be arraigned within 10 days. Lemons wasn't arraigned until Monday.

    Public information officer, Mark Opgrande, with the Oklahoma County Jail said Lemons was arrested on a probation violation on July 21.

    "On July 21st, 2018 he was arrested. He was brought in on a violation of a suspended sentence. On the 23rd of July we sent over the warrant paperwork over to the courts and on the 24th they certified the papers had been received over there. It wasn’t until several months later, up until a little while ago, that we were informed that he (Lemons) had not had a court date and had been here this entire time," said Opgrande.

    Opgrande said the jail relies on the courts to get the paperwork to back them with information like, court dates for inmates.

    Opgrande released a call transcript of a conversation Lemons had with someone on Dec. 21, where he didn't express much concern about his time at the jail.

    "I am very, very, very good, actually, to be in jail for over five months," Lemons said according to the transcript.

    "They never come and got me, ever, ever, ever. Been here five months," said Lemons.

    The transcript shows Lemons told the person on the other line that he looked on the kiosk machines for his court date and charges when he learned he didn't have any.

    "It's clear to us that he (Lemons) knew he had been in here a long time without seeing a judge. That information never formally made it back to us," said Opgrande.

    Opgrande said Lemons made 15 requests while in jail, but none that formally stated he had been in jail for too long.

    "One of the things that we look at is, is there anything that he said to us that we didn’t report? We went back to look at his request of staff, things such as, 'Do I need a Bible? Did I request a meeting with a chaplain. Do I need socks?' He made 15 requests. Not one request though saying that he knew that, or indicated that, he hadn’t had a court date or he’s been here too long," said Opgrande.

    Opgrande said bond was also an option for Lemons. Bond was set at $2,000. He said it was up to Lemon to decide if he wanted to take that route.

    "This is a situation where we’re going to take a look at it to see what else we can do on our end to learn if there’s been an inmate that’s been here a little bit longer, that maybe they tend not to say anything about it, that we can identify it and get in front of it beforehand," said Opgrande. "Regardless what paperwork that was supposed to be sent, was not sent back to us, something we will be working forward to, is to make sure this runs a little bit smoother."

    "This really goes to the question of needing better oversight, accountability and better transparency in the way that our jail is operating," said Calvey.

    Calvey blames jail management for the mistake telling FOX 25 that problems like this happen at the jail all the time.

    "A month ago I tried to do a count at the jail because I've been hearing rumors about this happening, about them losing people. The Sheriff's Office stopped us from doing that," said Calvey.

    Friday morning, public defender Robert Ravitz said 10 lawyers, accompanied by 20 deputies did a face-to-face count of inmates inside the jail. He said the check took two hours and 45 minutes.

    Ravitz said results from that should be released next week.

    When asked how it was learned that Lemons had been lost in the system, Ravitz said it was discovered last Friday when Lemons went to see the jail medical staff.

    Ravitz said it was there that Lemons explained to the staff he had been in jail nearly eight months, but never had a court date set.

    He said a judge arraigned Lemons Monday. Lemons court date is set for March 18.

    Ravitz said Lemons was released from jail on an OR (own recognizance) bond. He said the deal was negotiated with the district attorney's office

    "They allowed Lemons to get back into compliance with probation and not continue with revocation," said Ravitz.

    "This could have been anybody. This could have been someone who didn’t pay a parking ticket on time. It could have been somebody who was in there who couldn’t afford fines and fees and had a warrant issued for their arrest or someone who missed court because of a traffic ticket and got a warrant for their arrest. It could have been anybody in there, said Calvey. "Whatever the guy was in there for is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that people should not be kept behind bars without getting arraigned or due process of law. That’s the problem we have here and it’s not an isolated problem and we have all kinds of problems with the management at the jail and we need better oversight."



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