Tulsa Police lieutenant acquitted on felony accessory charge

TULSA, Okla. — 6/13/24 Update: The judge in the Marcus Harper trial found him not guilty on Thursday.

Friends and family of Lieutenant Marcus Harper cheered as he walked out of a Tulsa County courtroom a free man Thursday.

With tears in his eyes, Harper said he knew he was innocent all along but wanted the facts of the case to speak for themselves.

“The hardest part of this is that almost the last four years I didn’t say a word. I just took it. I just took it, but I took it like a man, and I came out on my feet,” Harper said.

Harper was facing a felony charge of accessory after the fact and an alternative charge of obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors said he tried to help cover up a shooting involving Tulsa Police Officer Latoya Dythe’s car.

According to police records, her car was used by gangsters in an August 2020 shooting at 61st and Peoria.

But Dythe, Officer Ananais Carson, and even the gangsters, all testified Harper told Dythe to call police immediately, never removed any evidence and it was the gangsters themselves who said they removed evidence from the vehicle before Dythe ever called Harper to her apartment.

“What you heard in the courtroom is there is absolutely no evidence that I committed a crime. No evidence. Absolutely none. I just need a little bit of time, guys, to try to get back to where I was. I don’t know if that’s something I’ll be able to,” Harper said.

Harper took the stand in his own defense, saying he told Dythe to call police immediately.

It only took Judge Clifford Smith 15 minutes to come to a verdict. He said the court heard no testimony and saw no evidence that Harper committed any crime.

He said at the most, TPD should’ve taken internal disciplinary action over the events that played out.

“All of this was about me. It was an attack on me and my husband because I said TPD has crooked a** cops in it, and today just proved I was right,” said Tulsa City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper and wife of Lt. Marcus Harper.

Hall-Harper said TPD smeared her husband’s stellar 28-and-a-half year reputation on the force because she was speaking out about corruption in TPD at city hall.

“I’ve been fighting for police accountability, citizen oversight, etc. when it comes to law enforcement in this city. And they wanted to shut me up. And they didn’t. And they’re not,” Hall-Harper said.

Harper said he will try to return to his job as a crime scene investigator as soon as possible.

His wife isn’t so sure. She said she feels it will be hard to walk back into the place she feels tried to destroy him.

Prosecutors did not stick around to answer any questions.

Tulsa Police said they will talk at a later time, and the entire events of the trial and the incidents around it are still at the center of an internal investigation.

FOX23 should note, at the beginning of the trial, Harper was given a plea deal which would have prohibited him from suing the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department for smearing his name.

He said no.

Harper has the right to sue the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department for the damage to his name from all of this now that he’s been acquitted but no lawsuit has been filed yet.

The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office did not prosecute Harper. It recused itself before charges were ever filed.

The case was turned over to the Rogers County District Attorney’s Office who handled the prosecution.

The Rogers County prosecutors also did not stick around to give a comment.

Update: The trial against one of three Tulsa Police officers charged with helping cover up a 2020 south Tulsa shooting began on Tuesday.

Lieutenant Marcus Harper is charged with helping now Former Officer Latoya Dythe cover up the fact that she was dating a known gang member who then used her personal car during a shooting in August 2021. The third officer Ananais Carson also had a hand in advising Dythe on how to proceed after she found bullet holes and shell casings in her car.

“I was lied to. I felt deceived,” said TPD Captain Jamie Kirby who was the supervisor called out to Kirby’s apartment after prosecutors said Harper and Carson helped Dythe, her boyfriend, and another shooter who was a passenger in the car get rid of evidence.

Kirby was the first witness on the stand saying at first she thought Dythe’s car was involved in another shooting TPD didn’t know about, but then Dythe said the car was involved in a shooting at 61st and Peoria already under investigation by TPD.

Kirby and another officer took the stand on Tuesday morning talking about what is was like trying to get the truth out of Dythe and her boyfriend about how bullet holes ended up in the car.

Their body camera video was played before the judge because this is a non-jury trial. In the video, Dythe repeatedly talked about speaking with Carson about what to do next. Carson told her she had to call their employer, TPD, and file a formal report because if she just took it to a body shop, the shop is obligated to call TPD to report they had a car with bullet holes in it anyways.

But what is in question is what Dythe did before she called Kirby and others to come and make an official report.

Prosecutors are building the case saying Harper and Carson went to Dythe’s apartment after she called them to say her car was involved in the shooting. Court documents state Harper and Carson told Dythe, her boyfriend, and the other shooter to destroy the guns used in the shooting, clear the car of all spent rounds and shell casings, and then skip town.

Kirby said on the stand about her body camera video that she could not find any shell casings proving shots were fired in the car, or any spent rounds showing the car had been shot at. Kirby believed Dythe’s car was simply driving through 61st and Peoria at just the right time bullets were flying.

“She said her car had bullet holes in it, and it has been at 61st and Peoria,” Kirby said Dythe told her making the first connection that the car was involved in gang violence.

At one point, Carson even showed up and spoke with Kirby who was filling out a report on Dythe’s car.

But it’s the actions of Dythe and Carson that Harper’s defense team are focusing on

The defense says Dythe asked Carson and Harper to come to her apartment, and it was only after Harper arrived with Carson that he realize he was being asked to take part in a cover up. Harper’s defense counsel said he wanted nothing to do with it in opening statements, and said at one point Harper frustratingly asked “why did you bring me here?”.

Harper’s attorneys said there were corrupt cops in the case, Dythe and Carson, but Harper was merely dragged into all of this simply because he is friendly with his colleagues. They said he offered no assistance whatsoever to Dythe.

“Dythe lied throughout the entire investigation,” Harper’s Attorney Danny Williams said while claiming Harper was as much of a victim of the confusion as Kirby.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said in a news conference in November 2021 that the entire case was a blemish on TPD’s reputation and trust in the community.

“The public has a right to trust law enforcement. They should be able to trust us,” Franklin said.

Carson pleaded no contest to a lesser charge in exchange for possibly testifying against Harper. He is serving one year probation. Dythe pleaded guilty to one Federal charge of illegally purchasing a gun for her boyfriend. She received five years probation.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

Harper was offered one final plea deal on Tuesday before trial started that would have forced him to resign from TPD, surrender his CLEET certification which would keep him from being employed in law enforcement ever again, probation, and also giving up the right to sue Tulsa Police and the City of Tulsa. He and his counsel declined the offer.

The last defendant in a case Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin once called one of the most serious breaches of trust in department history will have his case heard before a judge on Tuesday.

Tulsa Police Lieutenant Marcus Harper was arrested along with former officers Ananais Carson and Latoya Dythe in the fall of 2021. During a news conference, Franklin and Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard announced criminal charges against the three officers over allegations they helped cover up a shooting that took place in the summer of 2020.

“The public has a right to trust law enforcement,” Franklin said during a news conference in November 2021. “They should be able to trust us.”

According to court documents, Dythe’s boyfriend at the time and another man were involved in a shooting at a gas station near East 61st and South Peoria. The two were borrowing Dythe’s car, the documents state, and they drove the car back to Dythe’s apartment in south Tulsa after the shooting.

Prosecutors state Dythe saw bullet holes and shell casings in her car, but before she called Tulsa Police dispatch to have investigators come out, Ballard said she called Harper and Carson to help her come up with a path forward.

“This affidavit sets out in more detail the alleged involvement of Harper and Carson in being made aware of the shooting, and the allegations of their role in aiding the offenders and concealment of the crime,” Ballard said in 2021. “These charges stand in the proposition that no person is above the law.”

Ballard said Carson and Harper encouraged the men and Dythe to get rid of guns and the shell casings before Dythe called Tulsa Police dispatch to report the incident. Court records state when other officers got to Dythe’s car, they found no shell casings or other evidence that could have linked the car to the shooting.

Dythe would eventually plead guilty to a Federal charge of illegally buying a firearm for her boyfriend. Carson would plead no contest to a lesser charge in exchange for what is expected to be his testimony against Harper on Tuesday. Dythe is in the middle of a five-year probation period, and Carson is in the middle of one year probation and had to pay around $375 in fines.

Harper’s attorney has always told FOX23 his client would prove his innocence in court, and Tuesday will start the non-jury trial for Harper’s charges. After the judge hears evidence from all sides, he will then take some time to consider all evidence in the case before releasing his verdict in the coming days or even weeks.

Harper is facing a single charge of accessory after the fact.

Ben Morgan

Ben Morgan

News Editor

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