Friday, September 29, 2023
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Okla. Judge Gets 10 Years for Bilking Clients

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) - A former Oklahoma judge was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to embezzling from clients when he was an attorney.

Former Lincoln County Associate District Judge Craig Key pleaded guilty to 24 counts in 11 filed cases, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced.

Key was indicted in 2013 by the state's multicounty grand jury regarding accusations of embezzling thousands of dollars from injured clients, stealing cattle and a trailer. He surrendered his law license after being charged.

"He will serve the first five years in the custody of the Department of Corrections, and will be on probation for the remaining five years," Pruitt's office said in a statement. "He also was ordered to pay a total of more than $527,000 in restitution to his victims."

Key made headlines in June 2005 when he ordered the return of two-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs to her biological mother Raye Dawn Smith in defiance of a recommendation by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The toddler was previously taken into state custody after medical examiners concluded she was abused and had broken legs and spinal fractures.

The child died six months after Key's order from blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Her mother was convicted of enabling child abuse in July 2007 and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse in Feb. 2007 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The death resulted in the passage of the Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act in 2006 by Oklahoma state lawmakers. The law reformed the way state courts and the Department of Human Services handle child abuse and neglect cases.

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