A multicounty grand jury has indicted Craig S. Key, the former Lincoln County judge who returned Kelsey Smith-Briggs to her mother’s care before she died from suspected child abuse in 2005.
Key, 47, a Chandler attorney and former associate district judge, was indicted on felony charges of embezzling more than $70,000 from two clients as well as the theft of 13 head of cattle.
Seven indictments — three counts of delivery of a forged instrument, two counts of embezzlement as well as conspiracy to commit the larceny of domestic animals and larceny of domestic animals — were issued.
In the cattle case, Key, along with Joshua E. Anderson, 36, of Agra and Leslie Bottger, 47, of Agra, are named in the indictment alleging the theft of 13 head of cattle and a trailer in September.
The other indictments allege that Key, while working as an attorney, embezzled $71,583 from two different clients. Key, who reportedly received insurance checks for those clients, was supposed to use the funds to pay their medical bills but instead used the money for other purposes, the documents show.
Key’s attorney, Cheryl Ramsey of Stillwater, said Key plans to fight this case, according to the Associated Press.
“We’re very disappointed Mr. Key was indicted by the grand jury,” Ramsey said. “The grand jury only heard one side. We will fight this in court.”
Details from the cattle indictment show Key, Anderson and Bottger allegedly conspired in September 2012 to steal a trailer and multiple cattle from Lincoln County man. Key reportedly paid Anderson $200 to help with expenses incurred while Anderson and Bottger committed the theft, the document shows. The following day, Anderson and Bottger made two trips to allegedly steal the trailer and move the cattle to a farm owned by Key, the indictment shows.
In October 2012, Key allegedly told Brandon R. Dawson, 42, of Chandler, to take the stolen cattle and sell them at the livestock sales barn in Waurika, with him being offered $200 from the proceeds. While attempting to sell the cattle, the indictment shows Dawson was approached by agents from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and the Waurika Livestock Commission, inquiring about stolen cattle.
According to the indictment, Dawson allegedly sent a text message to Key that read, “Cops just came in,” with Key responding with a text that said, “Leave.” Dawson left without finishing the sale.
According to the remaining indictments, on two separate occasions in September 2010 and October 2011, Key allegedly forged checks and embezzled $57,283 and $14,345 from two injured clients. The money was intended to pay the clients’ medical bills, but the indictment alleges Key used the money for other purposes.
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The Attorney General’s Multicounty Grand Jury Unit investigated the claims of this case jointly with assistance from agents with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Until Friday, much about their investigation was unknown other than a search warrant had been executed in March at Key’s law offices located on East First Street, also known as SH 66, in Chandler.
The indictments were the first to be handed down by the 14th multicounty grand jury, which convened in January. The grand jury was requested by Attorney General Scott Pruitt in September.
Many area residents may remember Key as the judge who oversaw the case of Kelsey Smith-Briggs. Key returned the 2-year-old Meeker girl to the care of her mother despite concerns by DHS, and Kelsey later died in October 2005.
The child’s mother, Raye Dawn Smith, is serving a 27-year-prison sentence on a conviction of enabling child abuse. Kelsey’s stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and is serving a 30-year prison term.
If convicted on the allegations in these indictments, Key could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the cattle counts, plus pay a fine up to three times the amount of the valued cattle, up to $500,000.
On the delivery of a forged note or instrument charges, Key could face up to seven years in each count upon conviction and up to 10 years in each of the embezzlement counts.
The cases, filed in Lincoln County District Court, will be prosecuted by the Attorney General.
Key’s next court date on these charges hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Watch for updates.