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Thomas Ranes

Summary of ATF and Tulsa Police scandal
On September 29, 2009, police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, stopped 41-year-old Thomas Ranes after they said they saw him run two stop signs.

Ranes had pled guilty two weeks earlier to a drug-manufacturing charge and been placed on probation. He would later say that his probation officer had completed an inspection of his house earlier on September 29.

During the traffic stop, Officer Eric Hill ran Ranes’s name through the police database and learned of the conviction and his probationary status. Hill and other officers asked to search Ranes, his female passenger, and the car. Ranes and the woman consented to the search, and the officers did not find any illegal substances.

The officers then told Ranes that they wanted to search his house and that unless he gave consent, they would issue him the traffic citations, which could cause the revocation of his probation.

Ranes gave his consent. Hill, Officer Harold Wells, Officer Bruce Bonham, and Office Dan Tedrick went to the house and performed a search. Ranes would later say that the officers searched his house for a “substantial amount of time” and found nothing. Ranes said that Wells then went to his police cruiser, returned to the house, and soon disclosed that he found a baggie containing methamphetamine residue and six used methamphetamine pipes.

Ranes was charged with one count of drug possession. The arrest triggered a hearing on whether to revoke Ranes’s probation. The four officers testified at that hearing on February 23, 2010. Ranes’s probation was revoked, and he was sent to prison.

On April 29, 2010, Ranes pled guilty to the new drug-possession charge in Tulsa County District Court. He received a sentence of two years in prison, with credit for time served while awaiting trial. He was released on December 21, 2010.

At the time of Ranes’s arrest, the FBI was secretly investigating several members of the Tulsa Police Department, including Wells and Bonham, for misconduct in several other unrelated drug cases. Other indictments followed: Wells and Bonham were indicted on July 19, 2010, charged with civil-rights violations and drug possession.

A federal jury convicted Wells of 10 counts on June 10, 2011. Bonham was acquitted. Hill was never charged but was fired by the police department after admitting that he planted evidence.

After the 2010 indictments against the officers, Ranes filed a motion for post-conviction relief in Tulsa County District Court. He said that he pled guilty because it would have been the officers’ word against his, but that the indictments against the officers indicated a longstanding pattern of misconduct that he was unaware of at the time of his plea.

The motion was denied, with a district court judge ruling that Ranes’s guilty plea barred his ability to challenge the conviction.

Ranes appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that the plea bargain was a contract, and that Ranes entered into that contract without the ability to know that the state’s witnesses lacked credibility. The appellate court granted his motion on September 6, 2011, and sent the case back to the district court.

A judge vacated Ranes’s conviction on October 18, 2011, and then approved a motion by the district attorney to dismiss the charge on October 27, 2011.

Ranes filed a lawsuit on September 14, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma against the officers and the City of Tulsa, seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction. He settled the case for $10,000 on June 19, 2014.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/28/2022
Last Updated: 4/28/2022
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:41
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No