Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain charged with extortion

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain accused of using cellphone audio recordings to try to blackmail the commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety and further his career has been charged with extortion.

Attorney Mike Johnson said Capt. Troy D. German "100 percent" denies the accusations, calling his client "a whistleblower who exposed corruption at the highest levels at the highway patrol."

A grand jury charged German on Thursday with extorting Commissioner Rusty Rhoades to gain a promotion or appointment to a state office, The Oklahoman reported.

According to a court affidavit, Rhoades told Highway Patrol investigators that he and German had three meetings during which German made verbal and written attempts to extort him. Rhoades said German alleged he has six audio recordings on his personal iPhone that would incriminate the commissioner and two other Highway Patrol officials.

Rhoades told investigators that German sought his backing for his appointment to director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, the affidavit says. He said German threatened to release evidence of Highway Patrol misconduct if the commissioner rejected his proposals.

The Highway Patrol completed search warrants of German's iPhone and Apple user ID. The grand jury assessed the evidence in the case before returning with an indictment.

Johnson said German has overwhelming proof that he was attempting to transform the culture at the Highway Patrol in which "the good ol' boys were making sure their friends got promoted."

"We look forward to presenting all of our evidence in front of an impartial jury because I doubt seriously that all the evidence was presented to the grand jury," he said.

Minnesota-based Toro to buy Oklahoma-based Ditch Witch maker

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Bloomington, Minnesota-based The Toro Company has announced plans to purchase the Oklahoma-based company that manufactures Ditch Witch and other underground construction equipment.

Toro said in a news release Friday that it will pay $700 million in cash for The Charles Machine Works, a privately held company based in Perry, Oklahoma.

The proposed sale is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.

Toro chairman and CEO Richard Olson said Charles Machine Works will strengthen Toro's portfolio that includes turf maintenance, snow and ice management, landscaping and construction equipment.

Stitt adds to his cabinet, taps Oklahoma tax commissioner

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's new governor has made two more key appointments, naming a new secretary to his cabinet and a new member of the Tax Commission.

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday that Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Steve Buck would serve in his cabinet as the secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives. That post will require Senate confirmation.

Buck worked for many years for the state's mental health agency before former Gov. Mary Fallin appointed him OJA director in 2017. He also is one of the few holdovers from Fallin's cabinet that Stitt has elected to keep.

Stitt also announced this week that he was naming certified public accountant Charlie Prater of Edmond to a six-year term on the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Prater replaces Thomas E. Kemp, Jr.

Several people hurt after large house fire in Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Authorities say two residents and four firefighters were injured while crews battled a house fire in northwest Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City television station KWTV reports the four firefighters were injured when they fell off a ladder while trying to rescue a woman from a second-story window early Friday. Authorities say two of those firefighters were taken to a hospital and the two others were treated at the scene.

The woman was taken to a hospital and authorities say her injuries are life-threatening. Authorities say a man in the house jumped from the building to escape the blaze and was also hurt.

It's not yet known what caused the fire.