He Tells Ouster Trial of a Judge
John A Pettis Jr., the onetime city councilman, who resigned his position while facing tax evasion and embezzlement charges, is now a Baptist preacher, he told the ouster trial of a county district judge during his testimony last week.
“It took a major storm in my life to answer God’s call,” he testified on Friday in the trial of Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman.
“You see, I was one that wanted to always be in politics, but also knew God was calling me. But I yet ignored His call and decided to do politics first.”
Mr. Pettis had just gotten reelected for a second term when prosecutors began to scrutinize him for establishing three charities that, they believed, did nothing other than finance his personal lifestyle.
Prosecutors believed he had no other source of income and never filed state income taxes.
He resigned in 2018 rather than face felony tax evasion and embezzlement charges.
The former city councilman was a character witness for Judge Coleman, whose ouster trial is being held by the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary.
Judge Coleman also faces tax evasion charges.
Prosecutors dismissed the embezzlement counts against Mr. Pettis last year and reduced the tax charge to a misdemeanor.
He was put on probation and fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to the reduced count in Aug. 2019 and agreed to never seek public office again.
During his testimony on Friday, he said community church support for the beleaguered judge never wavered.
He said Friday he now works at the Millwood Public School District and volunteers at the Faith, Hope & Love Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
He has been a licensed Baptist minister for approximately two years, according to his testimony.
Mr. Pettis spoke bitterly about being charged and criticized District Attorney David Prater.
“I was like many young people,” he said. “Young people make mistakes all the time. And I made the unfortunate mistake of not filing my taxes on time.”
He acknowledged he had owed the state $4,512 in taxes.
“But how many people in the state of Oklahoma owe millions?” Mr. Pettis said. “The district attorney failed to go after them, but he came after a poor Black man for, again, owing $4,512, which was paid in full.
“Sometimes in our legal system, prosecutors forget the word, ‘grace.’ ”
He said he was polling at 80 percent in the county commissioner race prior to the charge.
Then City Councilman Pettis had filed to succeed Oklahoma County Commissioner Willa Johnson (Dem., District I), who had announced she would retire. So that, even though he resigned, his name appeared on the primary ballot as a county commissioner candidate.
He lost badly in the county commissioner primary.
“I know what she’s going through,” Mr. Pettis said of the judge in her ouster trial. “If anybody knows in Oklahoma County, if anybody knows in the state of Oklahoma, it is John A. Pettis Jr.”