Virtual charter school alleges slander by Oklahoma senator

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's largest virtual charter school system has filed a lawsuit against a state senator, alleging he knowingly published false statements about the school.

Epic Charter Schools filed the libel and slander lawsuit against Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee) Monday in Oklahoma County District Court, seeking at least $75,000 in damages, The Oklahoman reports. He contends the system illegally inflated its in-person enrollment to attract more state funding.

"We feel no option exists other than defending our school, staff and the families we serve from malicious defamation," Epic's board said in a statement.

Epic sent Sharp a cease-and-desist letter in September. The school's governing board voted in October to pursue legal action against him.

Sharp argues in multiple public statements Epic is unlawful by counting attendance at its physical learning spaces the same way it does for its online-only systems.

Sharp has also said he wants to "get to the bottom" of why Epic counted more than 3,000 sixth through 12th graders among its centers that only serve pre-K through fifth grade.

Currently a focus of a state criminal investigation, Epic denies any wrongdoing, saying it counts all students in Oklahoma County and Tulsa County under its physical learning spaces.

"We need to get some answers because there's millions of dollars that are being diverted away from traditional public schools," Sharp told The Oklahoman. "We need to find out how deep their pockets are and who they have politically corrupted."


Oklahoma man in Arkansas custody after stabbing, abduction

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — An eastern Oklahoma man was arrested early Wednesday in western Arkansas for the stabbing of his supervisor at a fast food restaurant and the abduction of his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Police in Fort Smith say 32-year-old Derek Martin Perez was arrested without incident at a motel and his wife and daughter were found unharmed. Muskogee police officer Lynn Hamlin said Perez was wanted on assault with a deadly weapon and two kidnapping warrants.

Muskogee police say Perez was wanted for the Tuesday afternoon stabbing of 36-year-old James Coble following an altercation between the two at a McDonald's in Muskogee, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa.

Police said Wednesday that Coble was treated and released from a hospital.

Sebastian County, Arkansas, jail records list Perez as in custody without bond and do not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.


Civil rights group sues over Oklahoma bail practices

By SEAN MURPHY Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A civil rights group has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against court officials in central Oklahoma, alleging a county's bail system unconstitutionally discriminates against poor and disabled people.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma filed the suit late Tuesday in federal court in Oklahoma City on behalf of six inmates currently being held in the Canadian County jail.

The lawsuit alleges that the county's bail system routinely keeps poor people in jail before a trial, not because they are a flight risk or a danger to society but only because they can't afford to pay bail. The suit also alleges that inmates aren't provided access to counsel when bail is set, that hearings are taking place in private, and that the system unconstitutionally discriminates against people with disabilities.

One plaintiff, 40-year-old Misty White, who was arrested last month for violating a protective order, began suffering withdrawal symptoms because she wasn't provided with her medications in the jail, according to the lawsuit.

When she was finally arraigned before a judge more than a week after her arrest, she was not asked whether she could afford an attorney.

"The judge did not ask whether Ms. White has a job or if she could afford to pay $4,500," the suit states. "The judge did not provide any explanation for why her bail was set at $4,500."

The county also has a practice of denying court-appointed attorneys to any inmate who does manage to pay bail, according to the suit.

The suit focuses on Canadian County, but such unconstitutional practices are taking place in counties across the state, said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of ACLU of Oklahoma.

"We are here this morning to put every judicial district on notice that the continued use of unconstitutional bail practices will not be tolerated," Kiesel said.

The lawsuit seeks an end to the county's bail-setting policies and asks the court to require hearings be held promptly after arrest. Those hearings should include, among other things, an individualized inquiry into a person's ability to pay bail and the presence of an attorney for those who can't afford it.

Canadian County's presiding District Court Judge Paul Hesse said the ACLU's complaint doesn't accurately describe the county's bail procedures and dismissed many of its assertions as "patently false."

"The judges of this judicial district follow regular procedures and administrative orders that are designed to protect the rights of all arrestees and accused," Hesse said in a statement. "A review by the federal court of the bail procedures in Canadian County is welcomed."