There was big news on the Stipe front this past week.
Francis Stipe, 77, bother of former state senator Gene Stipe, died on Monday.
Francis Stipe pleaded guilty in April to a four-count indictment involving a conspiracy aimed at gaining several hundred thousand dollars in taxpayer money for a McAlester dog food plant. Under the plea deal with prosecutors, Francis Stipe was sentenced to three years of probation, a $500,000 fine and six months home confinement.
Stipe had already paid the $500,000 fine and was serving his home confinement when he became ill and was rushed to a Tulsa hospital where he died.
According to U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling it is likely that the case against Francis Stipe will be vacated because Stipe died before he could be formerly sentenced. Sperling says that case law supports what appeals courts have deemed the “rule of abatement”. The U.S. Supreme Court established in a 1971 holding that if a convicted person dies before exhausting appeals, the entire criminal proceeding is abated.
This means that the family of Francis Stipe will likely recover the $500,000 fine and Stipes criminal record would be wiped clean.
Meanwhile the real Pittsburg County Courthouse is undergoing renovation. A temporary Pittsburg County Courthouse has been established in a local building reportedly owned by Premier Property Management Group which the court has leased for the tidy sum of $175,608 a year.
Just a couple weeks after the temporary courthouse was established in its new home, a stone marker was placed on the building.
That marker declares to the world that the building is in fact the “Gene and Agnes Stipe Building Complex”.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor, a McAlester resident and former Mayor of McAlester, has his knickers in a knot, saying “This is a matter of the administration of justice, and I feel strongly about this, and I am personally offended.”
Justice Taylor went on to say, “The courthouse is the sanctuary of justice for the community. It is the place where citizens enter expecting dignified and honorable proceedings. That building should not be named for a convicted felon.”
District Judge Thomas Bartheld, the presiding judge over the courts in Pittsburg and McIntosh counties, said “We leased the building. To have a sign placed on the building two weeks after we move in is wrong.”
Maybe, just maybe, while Gene Stipe was out of the federal prison for a few days to attend his brother’s funeral someone drove him by the “”Gene and Agnes Stipe Building Complex”, for a good chuckle at the taxpayers expense.
One can almost hear the giggling, all the way from Springfield, Missouri…