After five months fighting to get out of a disorderly conduct ticket he received after getting into a brawl over a financial dispute in August, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Woods has succeeded in getting his case dismissed in Adair County District Court.
In a dismissal order dated Feb. 21, Adair County District Judge J. Jeffrey Payton wrote that because the arresting Westville police officer did not personally witness Woods’ altercation with truck shop owner Dustin Stanley, she had no authority to issue a ticket to Woods (R-Westville).
“The court further finds that the laws of the state of Oklahoma very clearly address a situation of this nature and that (…) a peace officer may, without a warrant, arrest a person if the violation is a public offense committed in the officers (sic) presence,” Payton wrote in the order (embedded below), underlining the statements for emphasis. “It is clear that the disorderly conduct violation, if committed, was not committed in the officers (sic) presence and there is no dispute concerning that fact.”
Woods was not taken into police custody after the altercation, but legally, his ticket constituted an “arrest.”
“The court finds that Officer (December) McDaniel clearly violated the laws of the state of Oklahoma in issuing the citation charging the defendant, Thomas Calvin Woods, with the charge of disorderly conduct,” Payton continued. “The court finds that there had been no finding of probable cause, that had been made by a prosecutor or any other official. Furthermore, Officer McDaniel did not have any authority to issue a citation nor make any type of arrest for a misdemeanor, since the same was not committed in her presence.
“The court further finds and determines that the acts of Officer McDaniel are clearly against the laws of the state of Oklahoma and have denied the defendant due process as afforded to him by the laws of the United States of America and the state of Oklahoma.”
As a result, Payton dismissed Woods’ case and reversed the guilty verdict issued by Westville Municipal Court.
Woods, whose lawyers made the same argument in Westville Municipal Court on Jan. 26 only to have the municipal judge deny their motion to dismiss, praised the court order in a statement Tuesday.
“I appreciate Judge Payton’s ruling,” Woods said. “I am also glad to have this behind me so I can dedicate more of my time and attention to my work at the Capitol for the people who have entrusted me to hold this position.”
Similarly, Jeff Jones, one of Woods’ lawyers, said Payton “ruled correctly.”
“It was a violation of the law that they even wrote him a ticket,” Jones said. “There was never a probable cause finding.”
‘Before I knew it, I hit him’
The freshman senator got into the fight with local mechanic Dustin Stanley shortly after Woods was elected to represent Senate District 4 in the Legislature in an August Republican runoff.
Stanley had sued Woods over an alleged debt after he said Woods refused to pay Stanley for work he had done on Woods’ truck in 2019. The case was thrown out Aug. 2 because the statute of limitations had run out.
When Woods and Stanley ran into each other at the fourth annual Westville Melon and Barbecue Festival Aug. 27, an initial verbal altercation — in which each man called the other a “crook” — turned physical.
“He just kept getting louder, and we was arguing, and before I knew it, I hit him, and I think he fell down the stairs or steps or whatever, and of course I followed, and I hit him a couple more times,” Stanley told NonDoc in August.
Stanley emphasized that while he threw the first punch, Woods escalated the initial verbal altercation. Woods said Stanley initiated the attack.
“I don’t need people’s sympathy,” Woods said in August. “I just don’t want to get punched in the face.”
Officer December McDaniel, whom Woods’ lawyer said did not actually witness the fight, issued both Woods and Stanley a disorderly conduct ticket and also issued Stanley a citation for assault and battery.
Stanley paid both of his tickets. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
In a proceeding Woods’ lawyer called “strange,” Westville’s municipal judge refused to dismiss Woods’ ticket on Jan. 26. As a result, Woods and his lawyers appealed the case to Adair County District Court and filed a motion to dismiss, which Payton granted Feb. 21.
After a contentious four-way primary in which Woods cast aspersions on one of his opponent’s mental faculties, Woods defeated his runoff opponent Aug. 23 to represent Senate District 4, which runs along the Arkansas border.
In addition to the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, Woods sits on five Senate committees:
- Agriculture and Rural Affairs,
- General Government and Transportation,
- Energy and Telecommunications and
- Retirement and Insurance.