Schieber sentenced to county jail; Free on appeal bond

March 6, 2020 | Courts|Featured

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NEWKIRK — Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler sentenced former Kay County Commissioner Dee Schieber to nine months in the Kay County Detention Center today and ordered him to pay  $45,280 in restitution. 

On Feb. 14  Schieber was found guilty by a jury of four men and two women on six misdemeanor charges of willful violation of law regulating official conduct. He was found not guilty on a seventh count. The jury recommended a sentence of six months in the county jail on five of the six charges, and nine months in jail on the other charge for a total of 39 months and $500 fines on each of the charges. (see story)

Schieber and former county commissioner Tyson Rowe were charged with a host of crimes on March 31, 2017, by the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office. In 2019, Rowe entered no contest pleas to three charges of embezzlement of county property; two felony charges of embezzlement by a county officer; embezzlement by a public officer and nine felony charges of willful violation of law regulating official conduct. A felony charge of racketeering was dismissed.  (see story) Rowe was ordered to pay restitution and received a 10-year-deferred sentence and a one year suspended sentence on the misdemeanor charges. He served 90 days in the county jail.

Before Kistler imposed sentencing, Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Austin Murrey requested the court impose the nine-month sentence.

“The jury heard all the evidence and rendered guilty verdicts on six of them,” said Murray. “They singled out count five as more deserving of an answer to the community. They are telling you, your honor that count five deserves special attention. I request you sentence the defendant in count five to exactly what the jury asked for and suspended the other sentences to run concurrently. So essentially nine months in the county jail followed by suspended sentence. His actions over and over again cost the county large sums of money.”

Murrey called Schieber’s actions back room dealing with a favorite contractor and the county’s money. He asked the court to order Schieber to pay $209,509.50 in restitution. “That is the total of overpayments on each of the projects plus 50 percent of what the county paid for the special audit. That is what we ask for as restitution.”

Schieber’s attorney, Jarrod Stevenson, argued that the state didn’t meet the burden of proving over payment.

“The issue is what to do with the sentence,” said Stevenson.

“If the court is inclined to grant that restitution, I have no idea how he can pay that in three years. This is an issue we have in large scale restitution cases. I think the court should consider Schieber’s record’s of service. He was re-elected time and time again. He did a lot of good for Kay County. He was instrumental in the completion of a lot of roads and bridges. We give deferred sentences all the time to people who choke women. Why we would be giving deferred sentences and probation to people who are hurting people in Kay County and not Mr. Schieber. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Stevenson said that Rowe collected monetary gain from his actions and that Schieber did not.

“Nobody from the Bureau of Indians is here saying that Schieber awarded contracts to people who done bad work. The co-defendant (Rowe) in this case monetarily gained from his mis-deeds. 

I’m not trying to go behind the jury’s verdict but it would seem unfair for Rowe, who financially gained, to get a deferred sentence, serve 90 days in jail and paid $58,000 in restitution, but then sentence Schieber to three times the jail time and four times the restitution.”

Stevenson told the court that Schieber served with three district attorneys, John Maddox, (who was sentenced in 2000 on embezzlement charges, (see story) Mark Gibson and current D.A. Brian Hermanson and that none of them told commissioners their bid practices were wrong.

“It was the way it has been done for years,” said Stevenson. “For whatever reason Schieber and the commission was not warned by their counsel. Hermanson testified that he called the auditor’s office and was told it was okay. He didn’t do anything with it based on what he was told. There is no malice here. It is huge mistake.”

Stevenson asked that Schieber not serve jail time based on his age and medication needs.

“He is an older man and there are going to be troubles including the medication he takes that the jail is not going to give him. In his hearts of hearts he thinks he did what is best for the county. He is embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to see him as a criminal regardless of what your decision is. I ask the court to strongly consider probation and the restitution number be much lower then what the state is seeking.”

Murrey said Schieber is the one who demanded a jury trial and that they have declared punishment.

“I’m asking you to impose each sentence the jury imposed,” said Murray. “Please impose the nine months for the back room deal with Tom Simpson. Schieber had the resources to hire James Schaefer and Jarrod Stevenson. I’m sure they don’t work for free. He needs to pay the $209,000 at a reasonable rate. It is owed.”

After the arguments and a pause, Kistler asked Schieber and Stevenson to stand before the court.

“This is a difficult case for me,” he said. “I was impressed by the letters I received, most of which came from family but I don’t doubt that you have done a lot of good in life. However, the crimes you are convicted of are paper crimes, being that you didn’t follow the rules.”

The judge told Schieber that county officers are in charge of public assets. 

“In this case a jury of your peers heard all the evidence and arguments and they returned a verdict of guilty in six of seven counts. A jury is charged with the responsibility of guilt or innocence and state law requires me to sentence in accordance of the jury’s verdict. I have enough respect of the collective wisdom of the jury and the result. For those reasons I’m going to sentence you accordingly.”

The judge ordered Schieber to nine months in the county jail and suspended the remaining 30 months and the $500 fines.

He ordered Schieber to pay court costs, and $45,280 in restitution in monthly installments beginning 30 days after his release from jail.

“It is the sheriff’s call as to whether you are named trustee,” said Kistler. “I’m not telling them how to run their jail. You have a right to appeal this sentence. If you do it must be filed within 10 days.”

Schieber was then remanded to the custody of the sheriff.

Stevenson requested an appeal bond. Murrey argued that Schieber is convicted and sentenced.  “The fact of the matter is he is convicted he should serve his sentence,” said Murrey. 

The judge granted the appeal bond in the sum of $10,000.  Schieber posted the bond and was booked in and out of the jail. Stevenson said the appeal process could take 12-18 months.