Damario Solomon-Simmons was one of four attorneys who filed a similar brief late Wednesday afternoon in support of assertions from Crutcher’s parents and twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, that Terence Crutcher and Johnson had no such arrangement.
Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by a Tulsa police officer while he was unarmed on Sept. 16. The officer who shot him, Betty Shelby, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in connection with his death. A determination of who is entitled to Crutcher’s estate will be crucial in the event that a wrongful-death lawsuit is filed.
In addition to the common-law marriage arguments, both sides’ briefs make allegations against each other regarding their motives for becoming parties to the estate case, with Solomon-Simmons alleging violations of federal wiretapping laws and Smolen suggesting impropriety on the part of the Crutcher family relating to the GoFundMe money.
Smolen claims in his brief that the only people contesting Johnson and Terence Crutcher’s common-law marriage are his parents and Tiffany Crutcher, “whose interests in this case have become clear.” He alleges that Tiffany Crutcher changed the GoFundMe account to ask that people write checks in her name once Johnson filed to become the administrator of Crutcher’s estate on Sept. 23 and still hasn’t provided the $150,000 in donations to the estate.
Tiffany Crutcher has said the intent of the GoFundMe account, established after her brother’s death, was to ensure the financial security of his children, as well as for “obtaining justice” in connection with his death.
When contacted Wednesday evening, Smolen said an accounting of assets and distributions provided to the court for an estate such as Terence Crutcher’s isn’t a complex process and that it “can generally be done in a matter of days if not hours.” Court records in the case do not show an accounting has been filed.
“I believe it is important to the court to see a complete accounting based on the statements that Judge Glassco made during the (October) hearing,” he said.
During arguments Oct. 25 and 26 on Johnson’s common-law claim, Glassco ordered that the money be transferred to the custody of the estate and told Tulsa attorney Austin Bond — the current special administrator of the estate — “to take steps necessary” to obtain the proceeds from the family, including bringing in the U.S. Attorney’s Office if needed.
Tiffany Crutcher said at that time that the money had been placed in an account in Alabama, where she lives, and that GoFundMe collected a percentage of the $167,000 in contributions. She maintained that neither she nor any other members of the Crutcher family have spent any of the money.
Bond told the Tulsa World this week that he could not comment on the matter. Solomon-Simmons also declined to comment on Smolen’s brief. The probate record for the case does not contain any paperwork relating to the transfer of the funds to the estate.
Common-law claim to be decided
Glassco named Johnson the estate administrator Sept. 23 but revoked her appointment a week later, naming Bond to handle estate matters pending the resolution of the common-law matter. Crutcher family attorneys had challenged Johnson’s appointment, asserting that she cannot be the estate administrator because she has multiple felony convictions.
The brief the Crutcher family’s attorneys filed Wednesday afternoon states that Johnson has not proved that a mutual agreement existed between her and Terence Crutcher about their relationship status.
The brief states that testimony in October shows that Johnson did not use the last name Crutcher when referring to herself until she sought to become the administrator of Terence Crutcher’s estate.
The Crutcher family, according to the brief, “holds marriage and marriage anniversaries in high regard” but says Terence Crutcher never consented to being listed as Johnson’s husband in any official documents.
They pointed to his Facebook profile, which indicated that he was single, and to his bank accounts, none of which had Johnson’s name on them, and said multiple people testified that he never told them he was married to — or even wanted to marry — Johnson.
The brief goes on to allege that Johnson represented repeatedly to the government that she was single when applying for and receiving federal benefits, including subsidized housing and welfare.
”On Nov. 1, 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reaffirmed that individuals can and should be (stopped) from asserting a common-law marriage when the individual claiming the marriage sought and enjoyed benefits only available by denying the marriage,” the family attorneys wrote.
They added that it is “antithetical” to accept such benefits during a 16-year period and then be allowed to be part of a claim associated with Terence Crutcher’s estate as his spouse.
But in Smolen’s brief, he wrote that “the evidence in this matter is truly overwhelming” in Johnson’s favor. Smolen said Terence Crutcher had three children with Johnson during their 16-year relationship, raised Johnson’s son from a previous relationship and lived with Johnson and the children consistently except for periods both adults were incarcerated.
He emphasized that Terence Crutcher’s father, Joey Crutcher, referred to Johnson as his daughter-in-law in a recorded discussion at his law office. He also said Terence Crutcher gave Johnson a wedding ring that had their names engraved in the band, which he said she “proudly” wore as as a symbol of their marriage.
Solomon-Simmons has alleged that the recording of Joey Crutcher violates state and federal wiretapping laws because he was unaware that he was being recorded by a friend of Johnson’s.
Despite Johnson’s listed marital status on official documents, Smolen said it was apparent that Terence Crutcher lived with her and their children because there is no evidence of his paying child support. He argued that the state would require reimbursement from him if he lived away from them because Johnson receives federal assistance.
The brief from Smolen goes on to say that two attorneys who represented Johnson testified in October that Crutcher referred to her as his wife and vice versa, along with several of their friends.
Glassco is set to announce his findings on the common-law issue in a Dec. 5 hearing, which will determine who has standing to initiate litigation in the name of the estate for damages resulting from Terence Crutcher’s death.