TULSA (CN) — The former Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy convicted of manslaughter for firing his gun instead of his Taser at an unarmed and restrained black man was denied bail Tuesday, and his attorney angrily lashed out at the victim’s “punk” attorney.
Tulsa County Judge William Musseman agreed with prosecutors that he has no discretion to set bail for Robert Bates, 73, as state law prohibits bail on appeal for defendants convicted of a felony while in possession of a firearm.
In denying bail, Musseman said it is not his job to “analyze legislator wisdom.”
He was not persuaded by defense arguments that Bates was acting as a law enforcement officer when he shot and killed Eric Harris, but agreed with prosecutors that there is no exception for defendants acting as law enforcement.
Bates was free on $25,000 bail before and during his trial.
The jury convicted him last Wednesday, April 27, of second-degree manslaughter, and recommended the maximum punishment of four years in state prison.
Bates, who will be sentenced on May 31, testified for the first time during the bail hearing. Dressed in a bright orange jail jumpsuit, Bates slowly walked to and from the witness stand.
His attorney, Clark Brewster with Brewster & De Angelis in Tulsa, said his client is not a threat to the community and that staying in jail would worsen his health.
Bates testified that he has been diagnosed with a heart condition, sleep apnea, had both knees replaced and was on several medications. He said he was denied clothing when he was temporarily held on suicide watch, and that he was not sure what he had said or done to warrant that action.
After the hearing, Brewster angrily reacted to reporters’ questions about the ruling, as he waited for an elevator.
“Do you all feel safer with Bob Bates in jail?” Brewster asked.
“I hope you feel really good about it. That’s all I have to say about it.”
Brewster then pointed his finger at Harris family attorney Dan Smolen, with Smolen Smolen & Roytman in Tulsa, and said, “This punk here is your protector.”
An unidentified woman told Brewster to “sleep well tonight” as the elevator doors closed.
Smolen answered the question by telling reporters that he does indeed feel safer with Bates in jail.
Jurors deliberated for three hours before convicting Bates.
They were not swayed by hours of defense expert witness testimony that Harris, 44, died of a heart attack instead of a gunshot.
A video shot by a police bodycam shows Bates shooting a restrained Harris during a gun-sale sting and arrest last year.
Published by Courthouse News Service.
Watch the raw video below: