Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater dropped all felony charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister Tuesday.
Prater charged Hofmeister with four felony counts in November 2016, alleging she had colluded with a “dark money” group during her 2014 campaign for state superintendent. Two of the charges were for accepting illegal donations, and the other two were for conspiring to break campaign finance laws.
Hofmeister said at a press conference Tuesday she is grateful. “For nine months I have had to conduct my life in the shadow of unjust and untrue accusation,” she said. “But I knew the truth. I knew I was innocent.”
In the online filing, Prater noted the charges were being dismissed “pending further investigation.”
Hofmeister’s lawyer, Gary Wood, said he doesn’t know what that means. “All we know is what is written in the dismissal,” he said. “I’m not sure what investigation would be ongoing after three years. I mean this is a case that’s been out there for three years, and you would think the investigation would be complete prior to the filing of charges rather than ongoing at this time after charges were filed.”
Four others were charged in the case, and all charges have been dropped against them as well.
The 28-page affidavit that Prater originally filed alleges members of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), and Hofmeister funneled money from a donor corporation – American Fidelity—to the “dark money” group, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence, which then used the funds to finance a negative campaign ad against then-opponent Janet Barresi.
State law prohibits candidates from collaborating with dark money groups because they do not have to disclose their donors and can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns. Candidates, however, cannot receive contributions in excess of $5,000, and must reveal who their donors are.