20 Jan Update On The Case Of Bryan Denny | Wagner & Lynch
Former EOSC Instructor Accused of Removing Human Remains
So many have heard this story. When it first broke news organizations across the country filled their “Breaking News” reports with fantastical tales of a college instructor not only selling cocaine, but also unlawfully being in possession of human remains. As the internet and social media postings speculated and debated the terrible extent to where this would all surely lead, Kara Bacon of the Choctaw Tribal Prosecution office did nothing to quell the flames of an out-of-control fire they set the match she and her office set a match to.
On August 31, 2022, a man that had spent 44 years of his life building a reputation as first a law enforcement officer, and then an instructor to future law enforcement officers, had his name dragged through the mud form Laredo Texas to the Big Apple and back. Yesterday those salacious allegations were put to the test at a preliminary hearing, and failed miserably. The question is, “Will the news of that result ever make a single headline?”.
On September 1, 2022 Eastern Oklahoma State College Police Chief Alton Jones sought a search warrant for the Apartment of Bryan Denny. The search warrant was for the suspicion that Mr. Denny had marijuana in his apartment on campus. Armed with this warrant officers swarmed and searched the apartment along with Choctaw Tribal Officer Cody Donoley.
According to these officers they would found evidence of cocaine residue in four plastic baggies, and guns the tribal prosecutors would later claim were being used during the commission of felony distribution of drugs. While conducting the search and rifling through Mr. Denny’s private property they came across what appeared to be a bone of some kind. Officer Donoley photographed the item and sent a picture of it via his cell phone to an OSBI agent that confirmed it to be a human jaw bone and to be an artifact. That last part is very important.
Donoley next consulted with Kara Bacon at the Choctaw Nation Prosecutor’s Office, and Mr. Denny was charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor and had to post a heavy bond. The charges were Possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Unlawful removal of a dead body, Possession of Marijuana (Misd.), and Possession of a firearm while committing the felony of Distribution of Cocaine. It was the third count that would set a trail across the country of accusation that left Mr. Denny without a career or the reputation he had spent a lifetime building. The worst part is that it should have never ever happened.
Read Between The Lines
A quick reading of the law would show even a non-attorney that Mr. Denny should never have been charged with removal of a dead body. Much of the Choctaw tribal code mirrors many Oklahoma state statutes. The crime of removing a dead body is virtually the same in the state statute found at Oklahoma Title 21 Section 1161 as it is in the Tribal Criminal Code, also at Section 1161. It goes like this: “No person shall intentionally remove the dead body of a human being or any part thereof from the initial site where such dead body is located for any purpose”.
Right away I’m sure most of you recognize this as a law against ghoulish behavior such as grave robbing. Intentionally taking something from the “initial site”. As the OSBI agent Officer Donoley consulted said, this item appeared to be an artifact. There is certainly no evidence to suggest it was taken from its initial site by my client intentionally, or unlawfully. So, there must be a perfectly good explanation for this, right?
There is, and the Choctaw Nation Prosecutor’s Office received that explanation in writing from the owner of the artifact before Bryan Denny possessed it on September 9, 2023. This was after Mr. Denny’s name was splashed all over the New York Post for being a likely ghoul. The letter was from Danny Denny, Bryan’s father. He explained in detail the origin of the artifact as it was known to him. He explained his family’s Native American heritage, and how he grew up on a farm near Hoyt, Oklahoma just a stone’s throw from the South Canadian River. Danny explained that his father (Theron Denny) was injured when a horse fell on him and broke his back, while Danny was still in high school. The injury left him unable to work, but the proud man that he was he refused to just sit and wallow in his disability. He took long walks along the river, and one day came across what appeared to be a petrified piece of human jawbone. He took it to law enforcement and even a county commissioner at the time, and to a man they all agreed that it looked very old and was likely an artifact from the peoples who originally inhabited this area.
What was just something Theron Denny kicked up during a walk along the river became a family heirloom with an interesting story and mystery attached to it. The bone would be gifted to Danny Denny who would eventually gift it to his son Bryan in the same old shoebox Theron first placed it in after its discovery.
Exaggerating The Story
Despite having this letter days after deciding to charge Mr. Denny and allow the internet to label him a ghoul, grave robber, possible murderer, cannibal, and whatever other crazy rabbit holes folks turned down on social media because of the headline the Choctaw Prosecutors wanted, they did nothing. Since August 31, 2023 Bryan Denny has had to live his life publicly as an armed drug dealer that probably killed someone and kept their jaw bone as a trophy. On January 18, 2023 we show up to court to see the evidence that supports this and instead got a whole bunch of nothing.
The case was called and the Tribe put Chief Alton Jones on the stand. After the tribe concluded it’s direct-examination I began my cross-examination. I asked a very simple question, “Did you find evidence that Mr. Denny was distributing or selling ANY drugs? Cocaine or anything?” The answer from the Chief that conducted the search and wrote the report that the Choctaw Tribal Prosecutor’s Office relied on when they charged my client as a drug dealer, said, “No.” I pressed and the officer testified under oath that he did not find any evidence of distribution or selling of drugs, nor did he think that Mr. Denny committed such a crime. I asked why Mr. Denny’s gun was seized and he was charged with possessing a firearm while committing the crime of selling drugs if he (Chief Jones), did not think he was selling drugs. Chief Jones explained that it was Tribal Officer Donoley’s idea to seize the guns.
Uncovering The Truth
Later another officer would testify that the baggies they allegedly found containing cocaine, actually only contained residue or dust which the said field tested for cocaine. It turns out that the OSBI lab report would reveal that of the items submitted by the officers ,32 grams of marijuana was found and some residue of cocaine that could not be weighed (so it would have to be a total weight of less than a hundredth of a gram). Of course, neither the lab or the Tribe could or would produce any evidence that these things belonged to Mr. Denny other than that they were found in his apartment during their search. Despite arguing at Mr. Denny’s bond hearing that his bond should be set high because of the “large amount” of drugs found, the tribe made little effort to put on a case after their lead witness testified that he found no evidence of selling drugs and the lab report showed that so little was allegedly found.
As for the remains, all that was presented was the officer testifying that it was found. That’s all the tribe would offer. They didn’t acknowledge the letter they had had in their possession since September, or even done the decent thing and dismissed that allegation long ago, instead they allowed the hearing to go forward at their tribal members expense, and offered nothing. Despite arguing at Mr. Denny’s bond hearing that his bond should be set high because of the “large amount” of drugs found, the tribe made little effort to put on a case after their lead witness testified that he found no evidence of selling drugs and the lab report showed that so little was allegedly found.
The charges of Possession of Cocaine with the intent to distribute was amended to possession of cocaine (dust), and the charges of removing a dead body and possessing a firearm while committing a felony were dismissed at the conclusion of the hearing.
Hopefully those with power will never be so irresponsible to charge you with crimes you never should have been charged with, and the subject matter of such allegations is so salacious that the story surrounding it goes viral and your reputation is destroyed on a national level, but if you do find yourself in such a situation, call us at Wagner & Lynch, we actually have experience in handling that situation along with so many others.