Judge Tim Henderson
Oklahoma County District Court Judge Tim Henderson was suspended Friday, March 26, 2021, and told a fellow judge he would be resigning. (Henderson photo: Paul Monies / Oklahoma Watch)

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Tim Henderson has been suspended and is being investigated for sexual assault and misconduct against female prosecutors and defense attorneys, according to District Attorney David Prater.

Prater said a female assistant district attorney in his office came to him with allegations against Henderson on Tuesday, March 9. He said at least one more female assistant district attorney subsequently alleged misconduct by Henderson.

“I became aware that Tim Henderson was alleged to have sexually assaulted one of my lawyers. I immediately began to investigate and asked that he be suspended,” Prater said. “I’ve now learned that there are at least three young women who have appeared in cases (in front of Henderson), not just from my office, who are all alleging the same thing. So we are actively involved in a sexual assault criminal investigation against Judge Henderson.”

Presiding Oklahoma County District Court Judge Ray Elliott issued an order (embedded below) suspending Henderson this morning, and Elliot told NonDoc that he spoke with Henderson before doing so and that Henderson said he would be resigning. Gov. Kevin Stitt’s chief of communications said Henderson’s resignation letter was received the Monday after the original publication of this story.

“It has been my privilege and honor to serve as a district judge,” Henderson wrote to Jari Askins, Oklahoma’s administrative director of the courts. “You have been so kind to me and helpful in my career. I have learned a great deal from you. God bless you and your family and keep safe.”

Henderson’s letter is dated Thursday, March 25, but Askins said at 3 p.m. Friday, March 26, that she had not received a letter from Henderson. In the letter ultimately received by the governor’s office, Henderson wrote that his resignation would be effective Monday, April 5.

Elliott said Henderson, who has been his vice presiding judge, had been handling about 2,500 active cases, a number similar to all district court judges in the state’s largest county. In Oklahoma County, district judges rotate monthly to fill the position of “chief judge,” and Henderson had held the title in March. Henderson has also been the presiding judge over the state’s past two multi-county grand juries.

“I have had conversations with the Supreme Court, and they are going to provide me as much help as I need to cover the dockets,” Elliott said. “As presiding judge, starting Monday, I will have to start to get some of our colleagues to cover — either myself or some of the other judges in the building will have to cover — but there will be no pause in the cases. They will move as if he was still here because there will be a judge covering his cases. There will be no lapse or pause in the covering of his cases.”

Prater to ask for attorney general’s assistance

David Prater
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater answers questions during the Court on the Judiciary trial of District Judge Kendra Coleman on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Screenshot)

Prater said no member of his office has been suspended or reprimanded in relation to this matter, and he said he expects that more women will be coming forward with allegations against Henderson.

“We are at the very beginning of this process. I don’t anticipate it will be done overnight,” he said. “This is going to be a thorough investigation, and I will certainly be asking for the assistance of the attorney general’s office in how we move forward and will be moving forward in a thorough, fair and appropriate manner for all parties.”

Prater said he has seen no evidence to support rumors that members of his office were engaged in consensual sexual relationships with Henderson.

“I have evaluated the conduct of those in my office and find no wrongdoing on their part, but we will continue to evaluate — as we always do — any further information that comes to my attention,” Prater said. “Because this is an ongoing investigation, we will address issues as we become aware of them. And further our investigation until we get to what we believe is the truth from all sides of it, and if that involves that there has been preferential treatment involved in this, then obviously those will be things we will end up investigating as well, including opening up investigations into prior cases that have been heard before this judge.”

Asked what he would say to county residents who might look at this situation and question the validity of the criminal justice system as a result, Prater said he pursues all cases in the same manner.

“That’s why I do what I do. Whether it is a judge or a police officer or someone in any other station in life, we are going to treat them all fairly, investigate them appropriately, pursue charges when appropriate,” Prater said. “I want people to be assured that there are those of us in the criminal justice system that take the terms ‘true justice’ and ‘equal justice’ seriously. That’s why as soon as I determined that there was an issue with this judge that I immediately took action.”

Asked the same question, Elliott said he sees no reason not to trust the criminal justice system.

“I have seen nothing to cause me to fear that anyone has anything to worry about,” Elliott said. “It’s my understanding that the allegations have nothing to do with the content of any specific case, and because of that no one should have concerns [or] a lack of confidence in the system.”

Background on Judge Tim Henderson

Henderson was an officer in the Edmond Police Department for five years before attending Oklahoma City University law school, from which he graduated in 1987. He served an assistant in the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office under Bob Macy from 1987 to 1994, before entering private practice.

In 2012 Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Henderson district judge to fill the seat left by retiring District Judge Daniel L. Owens. Henderson was elected to a full term as district judge in 2014 and faced no opposition in his 2018 re-election bid.

Elliott, the county’s current presiding judge, and Henderson were colleagues in the DA’s office. Elliott served as an assistant district attorney from 1980 to 1998, and he has been rumored as a potential 2022 Oklahoma County district attorney candidate to succeed Prater, who has said he is not seeking re-election.

Henderson becomes the second Oklahoma County district judge to be investigated for unethical actions and alleged legal violations in recent years. In 2020, the Court on the Judiciary removed Kendra Coleman as District Judge following a three-week trial. Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman first reported the news about Henderson on Friday, and his story said the Council on Judicial Complaints is also investigating Henderson and the situation at large.

In addition to his duties as vice presiding judge of Oklahoma County District Court, Henderson had served as the presiding judge for the state’s multi-county grand jury for its past two empanelings. The multi-county grand jury’s 2018 final report is posted here.

“It is our understanding that the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court will address the issue of naming a multicounty grand jury judge,” said Alex Gerszewski, communications director for Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Gerszewski said the multi-county grand jury is set to meet April 6-8, May 4-6 and June 1-3. State and district attorneys use the multi-county grand jury to investigate and bring indictments in complicated criminal cases.

Calls to Henderson’s office at the Oklahoma County Courthouse went to voicemail Friday.

Judge Ray Elliott order on Judge Tim Henderson

Judge Tim Henderson

(Update: This article was updated at 11 a.m. Monday, March 29, to include reference to Henderson’s resignation letter being received by the governor’s office.)