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Oklahoma House passes transgender sports ban

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The Republican-led Oklahoma House has passed a bill to ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports.

The House voted 73-19 for the bill Monday, mostly along party lines. The vote sends the bill to the GOP-controlled Senate, which failed to consider a similar bill earlier this session.

Oklahoma is one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictions this year on athletics or gender-confirming health care for transgender minors. In Kansas, a similar bill heads to Governer Laura Kelly’s desk after it passed both state legislatures. In Missouri, the legislation passed a House committee and will now head to the floor for a vote.

Opponents raised concerns the bill could lead to the NCAA pulling some championship games from Oklahoma. The Women’s College Softball World Series is held in Oklahoma City, generating more than $20 million annually.

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Ex-Quapaw tribal leaders indicted for embezzlement

QUAPAW, Okla. – The Quapaw Nation indicts two former tribal leaders for embezzlement, conspiracy, abuse of office and other charges.

Former chairman John Berrey and former secretary treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves are facing a total of 18 indictments. The alleged offenses happened between April 2014 and July 2020.

Quapaw Nation internal audit

According to court documents, the Quapaw Nation Gaming Authority requested Innovative Gaming Solutions (IGS) to conduct an internal audit last year. They received allegations of improper bonuses paid to tribal leaders and casino executives.
IGS initially ran into issues getting information. They determined it was because the audit was happening right before the July 25, 2020 election. Several leadership positions were up for reelection. They decided to continue to the audit after the election.

Berrey, a 20 year incumbent, and Smiley-Reeves, lost their bids for reelection. Joseph Tali Byrd and Guy Barker defeated them.

Audit results

According to court documents, auditors found salaries and bonuses in the millions without approval from the Quapaw business committee. Court documents also allege some of the defendants took thousands from gaming operations.

Statements and additional details from the Quapaw Nation:

According to court documents, Chairman Berrey and Secretary Treasurer Reeves allowed the issuance of more than 70 company credit cards to numerous individuals, employees, agents, consultants and vendors not employed by Downstream Casino Resort or the Quapaw Nation.

Indictments and court documents

In addition to Berrey and Smiley-Reeves, several employees and people involved in Berrey’s administration are also facing civil charges. Those individuals include Jack Brill, Tena Smith, Janet Cummings, Sheri Smiley, Marilyn Rogers and George McWatters.

The charges against Berrey and Smiley-Reeves were filed in Quapaw Nation Court on Friday, April 16, 2021.

An initial court appearance is set for May 6, 2021.

Berry’s attorney, Rory Dilweg of Ocotillo Law and Policy Partners, LLP, sent the following statement to KOAM:

“We are aware that the Quapaw Nation’s Special Prosecutor has filed a criminal complaint against John Berrey for alleged violations of the Quapaw Law and Order Code. Mr. Berrey denies all of the complaint’s allegations, and he looks forward to clearing his name in court.”

The following are court documents in the case:

This article will be updated with additional details, including court documents, as they are received.

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NEO A&M kicks-off homecoming week with NEOchella

MIAMI, Okla. – It’s homecoming week for NEO A&M college in Miami, and they’re throwing a festival for students.

NEOchella, named after the famous music festival Coachella, featured a talent show, axe throwing, and obstacle course, among other activities.

“I was like, ‘You know what? Our students haven’t had many opportunities to go out and socialize,’” said student activities coordinator Elizabeth Flees. “And I just wanted this event to be spectacular so I’m throwing all the activities at them today.”

The NEOchella took place in the parking lot of the colleges nursing science building.

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State grades given as Biden pushes $2.3 trillion infrastructure package

The topics are,

  • Roads and bridges,
  • Public transportation,
  • Resilient infrastructure,
  • Drinking water,
  • Housing,
  • Broadband,
  • Caregiving,
  • Child care,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Home energy,
  • Clean energy jobs,
  • and Veterans health.

The White House published each state’s summaries online. The administration pulled information from an array of private and public data.

State Grades

They gave most states a letter grade on their infrastructure. The highest grade went to Utah, which notched a C-plus. The lowest grade, D-minus, went to the territory of Puerto Rico. Missouri has a C-minus and Kansas has a C.

The Debate

The administration is banking that the data will confirm the everyday experiences of Americans as they bump over potholes, get trapped in traffic jams and wait for buses that almost never correspond to published schedules. There is already a receptive audience to the sales pitch, and the strategy is that public support can overcome any congressional misgivings.

“We don’t have a lot of work to do to persuade the American people that U.S. infrastructure needs major improvement,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Sunday” ahead of the reports’ release. “The American people already know it.”

Republican lawmakers say just a fraction of the spending goes to traditional infrastructure, as $400 billion would expand Medicaid support for caregivers. Another portion would fund electric vehicle charging stations.

Republican lawmakers also object to Biden’s plan to fund the package by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, increasing the global minimum tax and other tax changes. They argue those taxes will drive companies out of the U.S.

“This is a massive social welfare spending program combined with a massive tax increase on small-business job creators,” Sen Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I can’t think of a worse thing to do.”

Wicker was among four Republicans on the White House guest list for Biden’s Monday meeting, along with Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Reps. Garret Graves of Louisiana and Don Young of Alaska. Democrats on the list were Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Alex Padilla of California and Reps. Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and David Price of North Carolina.

“I’m prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure project, as well as how we pay for it,” Biden said. “It’s going to get down to what we call ‘infrastructure.’”

You can find the White House’s state-by-state infrastructure reports here: Fact sheets by state.

You can also find the White House’s fact sheet on the infrastructure plan here.

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NEO A&M Aggie Days draws student from across the Four-States

 

MIAMI, Okla. – Students from all over the area today headed to NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma Thursday for the 69th annual Aggie Days.

That’s an agricultural contest with a variety of events from speech to livestock judging. Hundreds of students participated.

The livestock judging contest will take place Friday.

“For the students who have competed here in the livestock judging contest during our annual Aggie Days, said Agriculture Instructor Mary Booth. “The next step for them is going on to state competitions.”

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Oklahoma opens COVID-19 vaccinations to all states

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of any state as Oklahoma’s vaccine supplies and vaccinations administered increased, deputy state Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday.

(Find more at KOAMNewsNow.com/vaccine)

Until now, Oklahoma had limited vaccinations to only its 4 million residents.

Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Oklahoma has received more than 2.9 million vaccine doses and administered more than 2.1 million vaccinations. So, residents of any state will become eligible for vaccination in Oklahoma starting Thursday.

“While our focus has been and will continue to be on vaccinating Oklahomans, we have always known there would be a point at which supply and increasing capacity would allow us to welcome residents from neighboring states into Oklahoma to get vaccinated,” Reed said. “We are now reaching that point.”

According to the state health department, reported virus cases in Oklahoma increased Wednesday sharply, as predicted, by more than 1,700.

The department reported 441,906 virus cases since the pandemic began, an increase of 1,764 from Tuesday.

On Tuesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said a laboratory, which he declined to identify, thought it was properly reporting positive cases, but about 1,300 were not recorded into a new system the health department uses to track cases.

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Both Oklahoma murder suspects back in custody

 

DELAWARE COUNTY, Okla. – Authorities arrest James Buzzard, the second murder suspect recently released from jail in northeast Oklahoma.

Law enforcement officers arrested James on March 31, a day after they arrested his son, Dakota, the other murder suspect. (Read more: US Marshals arrest 1 of 2 murder suspects in Oklahoma)

In 2019, county prosecutors filed murder charges against both men. Authorities say the father and son fatally shot Jerry Tapp at a home near Grove, Oklahoma.

The two men were sitting in jail until March 19, 2021, when the county released them. Why were they released? Neither federal or tribal prosecution re-filed paperwork after a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction. (Read more in previous article: Marshals search for recently released Oklahoma murder suspects)

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office says at that point, the jail had no legal authority to keep the men.

But the Cherokee Attorney General’s office was contacted the next day, Saturday, March 20, and they re-filed charges on Monday.

The Alleged Crime

On August 1st, 2019, Deputies responded to a home at 32501 S 685 Road in Delaware County, Oklahoma (near Grove). They arrived and found Jerry Tapp, 49, dead in the front yard from multiple gunshot wounds. His live-in girlfriend, Cassie Tennison, 32, had a non-life-threatening gunshot to the right wrist. She made the 911 call for help. Medical personnel treated and released her.

On August 2nd, authorities got felony warrants for two people.

Officials charged Dakota Buzzard, 18, of Grove, with first degree murder and attempted murder.

They charged James Buzzard, 46, of Grove, with accessory to murder.

Officers say the shooting appeared to be retaliation for a shooting incident in June of 2015 where Jerry Tapp fired a shotgun into a vehicle occupied by James Buzzard and an 11-year-old girl. The child received a non-life-threatening gunshot wound as a result of this incident.

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Oklahoma court tosses 5 more first-degree murder convictions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma’s highest criminal appeals court tossed out five more first-degree murder convictions on Thursday based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision about criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.

Two of the rulings by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals also affirm that Congress never formally disestablished the reservations of the Choctaw and Seminole nations and because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in what is known as the McGirt case, the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute crimes by or against Native Americans inside those historic boundaries.

Combined with similar previous rulings about the reservations of the Chickasaw, Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations, state prosecutors no longer have criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving Indians in nearly the entire eastern half of the state.

Among the latest rulings were decisions to vacate the first-degree murder convictions of Kadetrix Devon Grayson, 28, a Seminole Nation citizen convicted in the shooting deaths of two people in Seminole in 2015; and Devin Warren Sizemore, 26, a Choctaw Nation citizen convicted in the drowning death of his 21-month-old daughter near Krebs in 2016.

Seminole is within the historic boundaries of the Seminole Nation, while Krebs is inside the boundaries of the Choctaw Nation reservation, the court ruled. The other first-degree murder cases thrown out Thursday involved killings inside the reservation boundaries of the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations, which the court had already determined had never been disestablished.

Thursday’s rulings are the latest in a flood of appellate court rulings overturning criminal convictions based on McGirt that have led to a dramatic increase in workload for federal prosecutors who must now retry the cases in federal court. They will remain in custody pending federal proceedings.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said that while Thursday’s rulings were not unexpected, they underscore the need for Congress to pass legislation allowing the state and tribes to reach compact agreements on criminal jurisdiction.

“We need it for Oklahomans, both Native American and non-Native American,” Hunter said in a statement. “Victims of crimes continue to pay the price every day because of the ramifications of the McGirt decision. State law enforcement officials continue to express frustration about their inability to hold criminals accountable. We are facing a situation that will not resolve itself.”

For some less serious crimes, Native American defendants may also be prosecuted in tribal courts. The Choctaw Nation announced Thursday that it has beefed up its tribal prosecutor’s office with six full-time attorneys and is prepared to file more than 125 criminal cases in its district court.

“Our coordination with the state of Oklahoma, district attorney offices within our reservation, and our Choctaw Nation Department of Public Safety should prevent any currently incarcerated individual from being released based solely on a McGirt jurisdictional claim,” said Kara Bacon, a Choctaw Nation tribal prosecutor.

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US Marshals arrest 1 of 2 murder suspects in Oklahoma

DELAWARE COUNTY, Okla. – The U.S. Marshals arrest one of two murder suspects recently released from jail.

A task force arrested Dakota Buzzard in the Grove, Oklahoma area today, March 30, 2021. Authorities are still looking for his father, James Buzzard.

In 2019, county prosecutors filed murder charges against both men. Authorities say the father and son fatally shot Jerry Tapp at a home near Grove, Oklahoma.

The two men were sitting in jail until March 19, 2021, when the county released them. Why were they released? Neither federal or tribal prosecution re-filed paperwork after a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction. (Read more in previous article: Marshals search for recently released Oklahoma murder suspects)

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office says because no new paperwork was filed, the jail had no legal authority to keep the men.

But the Cherokee Attorney General’s office was contacted the next day, Saturday, March 20, and they re-filed charges on Monday.

The U.S. Marshals say the men have connections in the Grove area as well as in Galena, Kansas. Authorities consider Buzzard armed and dangerous.

If you have information about where James Buzzard is, contact U.S. Marshals at 1-877-WANTED2 or USMS Tips at www.usmarshals.gov/tips.

On August 1st, Deputies responded to a home at 32501 S 685 Road in Delaware County, Oklahoma (near Grove). They arrived and found Jerry Tapp, 49, dead in the front yard from multiple gunshot wounds. His live-in girlfriend, Cassie Tennison, 32, had a non-life-threatening gunshot to the right wrist. She made the 911 call for help. Medical personnel treated and released her.

On August 2nd, authorities got felony warrants for two people.

Officials charged Dakota Buzzard, 18, of Grove, with first degree murder and attempted murder.

They charged James Buzzard, 46, of Grove, with accessory to murder. James is reportedly the father of Dakota.

Officers say the shooting appeared to be retaliation for a shooting incident in June of 2015 where Jerry Tapp fired a shotgun into a vehicle occupied by James Buzzard and an 11-year-old girl. The child received a non-life-threatening gunshot wound as a result of this incident.

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Oklahoma enters Phase 4 of COVID-19 vaccination plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – All adult Oklahomans are now eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

Starting today, March 29, 2021, Oklahoma entered the Phase 4 of its COVID-19 vaccine plan.

The vaccine is available at no cost. Oklahomans 16+ can register through the state’s Vaccine Scheduler Portal at vaccinate.ok.gov if they haven’t done so already. After registration, they will see available phase 4 appointments on the portal starting March 29. Appointments for phases 1-3 will also remain available on the portal.

As a reminder, the state’s vaccine portal is just one option for scheduling an appointment — vaccine appointments are also available through many other local pandemic providers across the state. You can ask your personal healthcare provider about the vaccine, or you can use the federal vaccine locator at vaccinefinder.org to check for appointments at local pharmacies.

“Opening phase 4 is certainly a milestone, but we haven’t won the fight yet,” said Keith Reed, Oklahoma’s Deputy Commissioner of Health. “We’ve met some ambitious goals leading the state’s largest vaccination effort in a very short period of time. However, we can’t let our guard down just yet. Now that everyone is eligible, don’t wait to get your vaccine. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to get it as soon as you’re able.”

(Read more about the vaccination process in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas here)

Monday, March 29, 2021 Update

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  • As of this advisory, there are 437,853 (194 new today) cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma.
  • n

  • 343 is today’s 7-day rolling average for the number of new cases reported.
  • n

  • Today’s Provisional Death Count (CDC/NCHS): 7,835
  • n

  • Additional hospitalization data can be found in the Hospital Tiers report, published evenings Monday through Friday.
  • n

  • Register online to receive a notification when you’re eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov, or locate other vaccine opportunities at vaccinefinder.org.
  • n

  • For more information, visit https://oklahoma.gov/covid19.html.
  • n

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  • As of this advisory, there are 437,853 (194 new today) cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma.
  • 343 is today’s 7-day rolling average for the number of new cases reported.
  • Today’s Provisional Death Count (CDC/NCHS): 7,835
  • Additional hospitalization data can be found in the Hospital Tiers report, published evenings Monday through Friday.
  • Register online to receive a notification when you’re eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov, or locate other vaccine opportunities at vaccinefinder.org.
  • For more information, visit https://oklahoma.gov/covid19.html.