DA dismisses charges versus Joy Hofmeister

Without explanation, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has dropped felony charges against State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister in a case involving wrongdoing in her 2014 campaign.

The case was dropped against four other defendants. Prater did say there was “further investigation” pending in the case and he could refile the charges. Hofmeister said she was cleared by the dismissal of the charges.

“I knew I was innocent and that I had conducted myself appropriately, and I am happy that this day has come,” she said in Oklahoma City in a news conference last week.

The action came a few weeks before a scheduled preliminary hearing that was set to see if there was sufficient evidence to go to trial. Prater said there is additional evidence that needs to be followed up on before any preliminary hearing. Hofmeister’s attorney said authorities have investigated the charges for three years and that he thought an investigation should be complete before authorities file criminal charges.

Hofmeister has already begun plans for a re-election campaign in 2018.  “We will continue to fight for what kids need and deserve — and that is a strong public education system,” Hofmeister said. “Our work is not finished and I will not give up.”

Hofmeister had been accused in two felony counts with accepting illegal donations to her 2014 campaign. She was accused in the other two felony counts with conspiring to break campaign fundraising laws. Prosecutors said she illegally worked with a “dark money group” to win election. They said Hofmeister, a Tulsa Republican, used Oklahomans for Public School Excellence to secretly accept illegal excessive donations and illegal corporate donations.

The other defendants in conspiracy counts were Fount Holland, her chief campaign consultant, and Stephanie Dawn Milligan, the political consultant for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence.

Also charged with conspiracy counts Lela Odom, who in 2014 was the executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, and Steven Crawford, who was the executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. Prosecutors say Odom and Crawford helped create and fund the dark money group, which raised $300,000 for an ad critical of Janet Barresi, the incumbent superintendent. Hofmeister beat Barresi in the June 2014 Republican primary. Hofmesiter beat Democrat John Cox in the November 2014 election.