Ex-Tulsa cop convicted of corruption; 2 acquitted

By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS | June 10, 2011 | 7:59 PM EDT

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A federal jury convicted a former Tulsa police officer Friday on charges he engaged in drug trafficking and stole federal money. The panel rejected prosecutors' claims that two current cops were part of a corruption ring that left a blemish on the city police department and led to the release of more than 30 defendants.

Current officers Nick DeBruin and Bruce Bonham hugged former officer Harold Wells before federal marshals led him away. A sentencing date was not set.

Prosecutors alleged the three were part of a broader corruption plot, suggesting in an indictment last year that some officers operated without boundaries or fear of getting caught. According to the allegations, the officers stole money and drugs, conducted warrantless searches and fabricated evidence to win convictions.

During the trial, prosecutors showed video from an FBI sting that witnesses said appeared to capture the accused officers plotting to split up what they thought to be drug money at a Tulsa motel. The trial also included testimony from Eric Hill, a former police officer who was fired after an internal affairs probe revealed that he admitted to stealing money during a drug arrest.

Hill, who received immunity from prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation, testified that the three accused officers met up after a May 2009 drug search and agreed to turn in money they'd pocketed because they were afraid they were FBI targets.

But Bonham and DeBruin said Bonham placed money in his pocket to see whether a dog trained to sniff out drugs would alight on him.

"I'm happy. What else can I say," DeBruin said. "I've gone through hell in the past year."

Bonham said Friday's verdict marked the first time he's felt relieved in a year.

"I'd never been handcuffed before other than at the academy. It was the worst day of my life," Bonham said.

Wells was convicted of possessing a firearm while trafficking in drugs, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; stealing federal money; conspiring to steal federal money and using a telephone to further illegal drug sales. He was acquitted on five other counts.

Bonham faced five counts and DeBruin six.

Two other officers, Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton, have been accused of similar crimes and will go to trial in July. Henderson faces 58 counts of distributing drugs, perjury and witness tampering; Yelton is accused of witness tampering, among other charges.