Gilkey found not guilty

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital
Gilkey found not guilty

Scotty Ray Gilkey was found not guilty of felony embezzlement Friday in a district court trial that concluded a two-year ordeal for the former Pawhuska football coach.

An Osage County District Court jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty at 2:24 p.m., just 61 minutes after leaving the courtroom to begin its deliberations. Gilkey, 39, had been facing up to five years imprisonment, if convicted.

During closing arguments, District Attorney Rex Duncan had asked jurors to assess the maximum fine ($5,000) and a restitution amount of $2,500 as a way of “sending a message” to the former coach and “hold him accountable after 26 months.”

Gilkey was accused of misappropriating a $2,500 amount from a fundraising event held more than two years ago. As stated in the state’s charge, the missing funds belonged to Pawhuska schools. However, testimony presented at the trial indicated a fireworks stand that was central to the case was never given school board approval needed to qualify it as a school fundraiser.

The football fireworks stand became a source of controversy from the time it was first proposed by the new coach, since it ostensibly would compete with another stand that had long been sponsored on behalf of PHS cheerleaders.

When Duncan told jurors that he was not asking them to put the ex-coach in jail, Aletia Timmons (Gilkey’s attorney) interrupted the DA’s statement with an objection: “I don’t want the jury to think something is on the table that is not,” she said.

Duncan had prefaced his closing remarks by saying: “You’ve got to ask yourself: Who do you believe?,” said the Osage County prosecutor. “Either he did this or the whole town cooked it up.”

Timmons referred to it as “Friday Night Lights Pawhuska,” saying she believed there was an “evil” conspiracy involving people “who were mad about him (Gilkey) being coach.”

“We don’t have a victim here — except Scotty Gilkey,” said Timmons, adding that the $2,500 amount that was alleged to have been embezzled “was the dollar limit needed to send someone to the penitentiary for five years.”

Associate District Judge B. David Gambill presided over the four-day trial. Eighteen witnesses testified, including 14 for the prosecution. The allegations against Gilkey involved proceeds from a Fourth of July fireworks stand operated in 2012 — a month after he had been hired to be the head coach at Pawhuska High School, his prep alma mater.

Although the fireworks stand started out to be a fundraiser for the football program, the status of the project became unclear after it did not receive sanctioning approval from the local school board. Among other things, there were concerns that the football stand would hurt sales for a long-standing fireworks operation held to benefit PHS cheerleaders.

Several witnesses said Gilkey had failed to share proceeds from the football stand with the cheerleading program — as he reportedly had promised to do during a June 2012 meeting of the Pawhuska Quarterback Club.

Testimony alleged that the coach became evasive when he was questioned about the fireworks operation’s profits during the organization’s October meeting. Among those testifying were two PHS assistant coaches who said they had been fired by Gilkey after inquiring about the fireworks-stand funds.

Gilkey was Pawhuska’s head football coach for approximately six months before he was suspended in early November 2012 as the Huskies were preparing for a game in the state playoffs. At the request of school officials, an investigation of district finances was subsequently conducted by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office.

The felony charge, which was filed in May 2013, accused Gilkey of misappropriating approximately $2,500 in fireworks stand proceeds belonging to the school district.

However, the person who provided the fireworks stand testified he had sponsored the fundraiser because of his friendship with Gilkey. Paul Mays, Jr., said he the money wasn’t being raised for the schools, but to help Gilkey with the football program. After the school district did not support the project, Mays said it was his understanding that the Gilkey family operated the stand on their own.

The exonerated Pawhuska coach is still named in a seven-count misdemeanor embezzlement charge which also lists his wife, Jennifer Gilkey, as a defendant.

Gilkey did not testify at the trial, but he has maintained throughout the ordeal that the charges are a result of community dissatisfaction related to his handling of the PHS football program.

The ex-head coach of the Huskies admitted that part of the dissension was probably in reaction to him starting his son (then-freshman Scotty Gilkey, Jr.) at the quarterback position.

After graduating from PHS in the mid-1990s, Gilkey, Sr.,served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before playing college football at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Eastern Illinois University. (At EIU, he was a teammate of Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo.)

Gilkey previously was an assistant coach with prep programs in Illinois, Bartlesville, Tulsa Washington and Union.

Two months ago, Gilkey commented about the challenging months since he was suspended at Pawhuska.

“For me,the toughest part is not being able to coach my son,” Gilkey said.

Gilkey, Jr., played for the Jenks program last season and he is now a varsity quarterback at Broken Arrow.