Mike Mass was first sworn into the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1991. In 2003, he stepped down to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress. Re-elected to the Oklahoma House in 2004, he remained there until his term expired in 2006.
While incarcerated, he began working on a personal memoir that would consume nearly seven years. The resulting book, Beneath the Vines, was published by Tate publishing and is currently in “pre-released” status.
Following is an excerpt as printed from pages 301 to 303 of Beneath the Vines by Mike Mass. Actual names of people involved in the story have been changed in the book.
None of us were laughing now as we climbed the intimidating granite stairs of the federal courthouse. Inside the courthouse, the prosecutors and the media were all there, awaiting their day in the sun. My legs were like jelly, and I had not one ounce of dignity to muster. I stood before the judge as my lawyer entered my plea of guilt. Having confirmed all my sinister deeds, as described by Hibbs and his new federal pals, she asked if I understood that I was admitting to the charges and whether or not I had been coerced. It was my final chance to set the record straight; a real fleeting thought. It was like dangling from a wire a hundred feet above the pavement and having someone say, “If it’s too hard to hang on, just turn loose.” I’ll hang on, thank you.
The ceremony was rather brief. In a matter of moments, I went from upstanding citizen to convicted felon. Although I was somewhat aware of the voices and movements around me, the following hours were like drifting through a haze. It brought back memories of a hunting trip on Rattlesnake Mountain years earlier, when a sudden cold front ushered in a dense blanket of clouds and fog. For a while, I was lost. I knew where I was. I just didn’t know where I was going. The mug shot, the finger printing and processing by the young U.S. Marshals, and the reporters and photographers scattered about the hallways — all of it was up close and personal, yet seemed so very distant. Before I left the courthouse, the parameters of my probation were set, pending a day for formal sentencing. This included where I was allowed to travel, who I could and couldn’t talk to, and the stripping of my Second Amendment right to possess or carry a firearm. Sentencing would not occur until the feds had run down every lead, as provided by Hibbs, and squeezed every last drop of blood out of me that they could get, which wouldn’t be that much. I didn’t have very much left to give them.
The public flogging was now at hand. By the time my brothers and I got home that evening, my mug shot was being broadcast statewide on the six o’clock news. It would take the young editor back home a little longer. He would save his thrashing for the big Sunday paper. Aside from his bold headlines, he did a half-page editorial where he called me “evil, vile and heinous.” He went further to say that I had climbed the backs of my own grandchildren to gain favor in a public office where I could pillage, plunder, and steal. I could say nothing. My lips had been sealed by both the feds and my attorney.
I may have taken a kickback, gambled, and drank whiskey, but I wasn’t going to be a snitching puppet!
Other than tarnishing an otherwise flawless name handed down from generations of hard work and sacrifice, I was also branded as being cooperative with the feds. The connection left me being viewed as a snitch, a snitch in bed with Hibbs. I didn’t have anyone to snitch on other than myself, but who knew? Hibbs was keeping to his word. He was puking on every politician he’d ever known, including my friends, and the feds were expecting me to confirm his every word. I may have taken a kickback, gambled, and drank whiskey, but I wasn’t going to be a snitching puppet! Hibbs’s word alone at face value wasn’t worth much when put to the test by a real defense lawyer. He was facing nearly four hundred felony counts ranging from conspiracy to campaign fraud to the child pornography found on a computer in one of the private offices he owned. The feds needed confirmation of his tales by a reliable crook like me. The feds didn’t care how crooked he was; they just wanted some politicians heads to mount upon their walls!
Not knowing when but knowing for certain I was bound for the federal pen, I set out to get things in order for my wife, who by then was battling diabetes, degeneration of the spine, and a host of other illnesses that would prevent her from working. Foremost, I was making sure we both had a place to live when it was all said and done. By then, I was several payments behind on our house and forty-seven acres. Family and friends chipped
in to catch up on the late bank payments, and the bank agreed to hold off calling in the note until I could sell off highway frontage enough to clear the note. We had a buyer for the frontage in less than a month. We would use the money to clear our taxes and pay off the bank, leaving the house and garden spot free and clear. Meanwhile, the old senator and his brother were keeping as close a watch on my affairs as the feds were. With the help of a bank employee, the senator’s brother was monitoring progress on the sale of my land. This was the same brother who had demonstrated his vindictive prowess twenty years earlier over the Randy Travis event. Just days before closing on the sale, the high and mighty McClain bank sold him the note on our property. A week earlier, the old senator had filed a lien on the same property, calling in the $40,000 loan that had plagued my conscience for so long. It was proof enough that, at least for him, the $40,000 was indeed a loan. I couldn’t believe the Stokes brothers were pulling such a brazen stunt in full view of the public and in the midst of such a wide-scale FBI probe. Although I didn’t like it, I understood it. In the same predicament, my brothers might have done the same. Moreover, I couldn’t believe the bank had such audacity. The strings the senator could pull seemed endless. The Stokes were taking no chances, should I dance for the feds like their former partner Hibbs was.
This was political hardball at its best, and I was playing out of my league.
It was only a matter of weeks afterward that the feds indicted the senator’s brother for “witness tampering.” The bankers in charge should have been indicted, but evidently they wore golden slippers. This was political hardball at its best, and I was playing out of my league.
The wheels of justice moved rapidly for Stokes’s brother. With the jurors behind closed doors a little too long for comfort, he plead guilty to one count of witness intimidation. While awaiting his sentence, he succumbed to a fatal heart attack. The note to my property, however, remained in his estate.
(Editor’s note: Copies of Beneath the Vines can be ordered from Mike Mass directly by sending a check or money order for $22.99 to Beneath the Vines, P.O. Box 342, Hartshorn, OK, 74547. That price includes shipping.)