Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Newspaper Details Judge's 'Rags To Riches' Story

By W. Orlando Pierce/Black Chronicle ~  The judge accused of misconduct in a high-profile murder case has quickly become a millionaire by acquiring real estate properties, with at least one of the previous owners having had encounters with the county judicial system.

Hers is a “rags to riches story” of a woman who claimed assets of just about $37,000 when she ran for the seat she holds as a county judge. Just last year, she claimed in bankruptcy court records to have become an officeholder who had about $1 million in assets.

Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass LeSure and her husband, Karlos LeSure Sr. (a onetime mortgage broker), once lived in a house valued at $79,000, which they acquired as a foreclosure property.

The LeSure Home
 Today, they live in a palatial house in northeast Oklahoma City with a $439,000 market value.

Mrs. LeSure has been a district judge for nearly 12 years, and makes an annual salary of $124,000.

Oklahoma County Assessor records list the $79,000 house as previously owned by Mario Jamel Cheadle.

Mr. Cheadle, according to court records, has had several encounters with the Oklahoma County judicial court system. He was convicted of making a false declaration of ownership to a pawnbroker in 1999 after pleading guilty and was sentenced in 2000. The judge in that case was Judge LeSure.

In 2004, Mr. Cheadle was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled and dangerous substance: one for possession of cocaine and the other for possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty on both counts and was sentenced. Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Deason handled that case.

In 2005, Mr. Cheadle was charged with a single count of possession of a controlled and dangerous substance (marijuana). He pleaded guilty and was sentenced. Oklahoma County District Judge Susan P. Caswell handled that case.

Even as the judge and her husband saw their personal wealth grow dramatically since she has been serving on the bench, the LeSures faced financial difficulties; difficulties so severe that they led to bankruptcy.

According to federal bankruptcy court records, the LeSures claimed assets of about $1 million when they filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after banks foreclosed on six of the houses they owned. They initially reported in that case that they had assets of $1.14 million, and liabilities of $1.22 million, but they later reported their liabilities were $1.03 million.

When Mrs. LeSure was married to another man, James K. Jones, she and her then husband also filed for bankruptcy. The 1995 bankruptcy petition claimed the couple had $37,510 in assets and $57,330 in liabilities. Mr. and Mrs. Jones divorced in 1999, and Judge LeSure was known as Tammy Bass Jones when she was first elected to the bench.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater asked Judge LeSure to recuse herself from the high-profile first-degree murder case involving Jerome J. Ersland, a pharmacist. Mr. Ersland shot and killed a masked robber, and he is being charged with murder because prosecutors believe he shot the robber five additional times after he had been felled by another shot to the head.

Prosecutors said they had reason to believe that Judge LeSure would not conduct a fair trial, and she did step down.

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