Friday, February 6, 2015

BREAKING NEWS! NEW LPD SCANDALS EXPOSED: Cops Keep Jobs After Recklessly Firing Weapons While Drinking Alcohol, Driving Vehicles in Excess of 125 MPH While Off-Duty; Appreciative of Not Getting a Ticket!


Tim VanderPlaats
Secret documents were released on Friday related to a lawsuit filed by Lafayette resident, Tim VanderPlaats against the Lafayette Police Department, the City of Lafayette, and  LPD officers, Charles Williams, Jr., and Michael Barthelemy.  As reported earlier, VanderPlaats received threatening messages from LPD officers after hugging one of the officer's girlfriend.  A week later VanderPlaats was beaten unconscious as he was arriving home.


According to court records, three of the officers admitted to placing calls to VanderPlaat's phone.  One of the recorded messages was noted in a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of the City of Lafayette.  Apparently, the City is seeking to be dismissed as a defendant from the lawsuit, citing immunity protections as a government entity as well as stating the officers were not acting in their official capacities as officers when they made threats against VanderPlaats.


Officers Charles Williams, Jr., Michael Barthelemy, and Nathan LaMar testified that they placed calls to VanderPlaats from a local restaurant.


One of the messages was entered as evidence in the Motion. 

"Hi, Tim.  This is Bobby.  I just wanted to tell you that you're a huge fuckin' douche bag, and I swear to God if I hear your name again I'm going to fucking kill you.  And it's not gonna be awesome, I mean it's gonna be like, little body parts in a fireplace kind of death, and that's really gonna suck.  So -- I would just kinda crawl into a hole today [inaudible] for awhile, or --[inaudible].  Thanks."
In addition to evidence related directly to the case, disciplinary documents against officers involved in the VanderPlaats scandal were also entered into public evidence, including an incident involving "the consumption of alcoholic beverages and firing of weapons" that reportedly took place in early 2009 involving several LPD officers as well as an LPD dispatcher.  Officers Nathan LaMar, Charlie A Williams, Jr., Ronald Dombkowski, and Dispatcher Mark Grimes were written up in a confidential LPD case report dated 8/28/2009.  

The detailed report also revealed that Tippecanoe County Sheriff Deputy Drew Heath, son of former Tippecanoe County Sheriff Dave Heath, was also involved in the incident. 

At the direction of Captain Steve Hartman of the LPD, Lt. Chris Downard was directed to open an investigation of misconduct into the incident. 

LPD Officer Charles Williams, Jr.
According to the report, Officer Charlie Williams, Jr. admitted that he was with several friends, some from the LPD, at Purdue Police Officer Andy Standifer's home in rural Warren County.  Williams told the investigator that that he, Ron Dombkowski, Officer LaMar, and Deputy Heath from TCPD were at the gathering. 

"[Williams] said there were some alcoholic beverages consumed, but he did not feel he was intoxicated," the report stated.  "He stated that when the group was mainly outside the home (he could not specifically recall who was still inside) he used his off duty handgun to fire a round into the air.  He described pointing the weapon toward an empty field, away from persons."

Officer Nathan Lamar reportedly stated that he, Williams, Dombkowski, Drew Heath, Katie Williams, and Mark Grimes had ridden together to Standifer's with Ron Dombkowski, "as Dombkowski was not drinking that night and was a designated driver."

"[LaMar] said that when they were leaving Standifer's, exiting the house, Williams was standing next to Dombkowski's personal vehicle, and he fired two rounds into the ground next to Williams.  Lamar said he never felt anyone was endangered by the shots Williams fired.  He said they all entered Dombkowski's vehicle, and Drew Heath fired a shot out the window toward the ground at an adjacent cornfield.  Lamar said that he also fired a round from his personally owned handgun out the window of the vehicle toward the ground alongside the road, and that Mark Grimes then fired his weapon out the window.  LeMar said at this time Dombkowski stopped the vehicle and angrily confronted them, telling them to 'knock it off'.  LeMar was certain that Dombkowski did not fire a gun, due to his driving the vehicle and being upset by their behavior.  LeMar said he had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to the incident, but did not consider himself 'intoxicated.'  LeMar described his actions as 'stupid' and said he had not engaged in any behavior like that since that night."

[Dombkowski] gave a similar account to that of LaMar according to the report.  He stated that Heath, LeMar, Charlie Williams, Katie Williams, and Mark Grimes were in the vehicle with him.  Dombkowski stated that "Charlie Williams, LaMar, Heath, and Grimes fired their handguns out the windows of the windows of the vehicles while they were on an unpopulated stretch of the road.  He did not believe they were endangering anyone, but wanted them to stop their actions, and he recounted stopping his vehicle in the roadway and yelling at them to stop."

[Grimes], the LPD dispatcher confirmed the events to the investigator; however, it was noted that Grimes was confronted by Captain Hartman for not disclosing the incident during his initial interview.

The Officers were found to be in violation of Lafayette Police Department Policy 05-22, Off-Duty Weapons, which requires:

"Off Duty weapons will be used in accordance with any appropriate Department Policy Statement and any other appropriate rule, regulation policy directive or order as issued.

The firing of their off-duty weapons in this incident could not be construed as target practice, hunting, ballistic examination or of the destruction of an animal or within the discharge of their duties as officers.  (Policy 05-19) They did not report discharging weapons outside those conditions as required by that policy.  Furthermore, firing the weapons from a moving vehicle after consumption of alcoholic beverages amplifies the irresponsibility of their actions.

Dispatcher Grimes' actions are not judged by the sworn officers' rules and regulations, but his behavior could have brought the city into disrepute; therefore, his conduct was unbecoming as a city employee and against City of Lafayette Policy.  Further, he did not comply with a lawful request of superior to answer questions truthfully during his internal review process, again violating city rules."

Officer Ron Dombkowski failed to report behavior of fellow members of the department that were violations of rules and regulations," continued the report filed by Lt. Chris Downard.

Surprisingly, the only action taken against the LPD officers were letters to their employment files.


LPD OFFICERS CLOCKED IN EXCESS OF 125 MPH IN PERSONAL VEHICLES BY ISP; NO CHARGES FILED


How many citizens would get a free pass after being clocked driving in excess of 120 mph on I-65?  Apparently, the law doesn't apply to four LPD officers who were stopped by ISP Major Thomas Melville on May 12, 2009 after they were driving at high rates of speed on I-65.


A letter describing the incident and follow-up reprimand were released as part of the aforementioned lawsuit filed against the City of Lafayette by Tim VanderPlaats.


According to a letter, dated May 12, 2009 and addressed to former LPD Chief Don Roush, Major Melville gave the following account:



"I was on my way home from Active Shooting Training at the State Office Building.  I was northbound on I-65 approaching the ramp from I-465.  I noticed two vehicles enter I-65 from the I-465 ramp at a high rate of speed.  I was sure I had two very high speeds with these vehicles.  I thought they were drag racing but could not be sure yet because I was still about 1/2 mile behind the vehicles.  I accelerated and was not catching up with the vehicles.  I found a sign where I could begin a VASCAR clock on the front vehicle, a 2006 Black Dodge Charger.  The second vehicle, a 1996 black Chevrolet Impala SS, I would estimate was at a speed in excess of 120MPH before he let off the accelerator.  I passed the second vehicle near 71st St. and found a change in the color of the pavement north of 71st St. to stop the VASCAR clock on the first vehicle.  When I ran through the VASCAR zone I received a clock on the first vehicle at 112.7MPH.  Vehicle 1 had hit the brakes and slowed down before I could get a location to shut the VASCAR off so I would estimate the speed of this vehicle in excess of 125MPH.



I activated my red/blue lights and the Dodge Charger pulled right over.  I waved over the Chevrolet Impala but the vehicle did not stop.



I told the driver of the Dodge Charger to show me his hands.  The driver stated they were police officers.  I asked how many were in the car with him and he stated one other police officer.  I was at a position where I could not see the passenger at the time.  I had my weapon pulled, in the ready position and instructed the driver the shut the vehicle off then throw the keys out of the vehicle.  I then instructed him to exit the vehicle and slowly produce his identification.  The driver did so without question.  I then instructed the passenger to exit the vehicle and then slowly produce his identification.  He did so.  I then holstered my weapon.



An IMPD Officer and ISP Sgt. Rick Cool arrived for backup.



At this time the second vehicle had returned to our location and both the driver and passenger provided police identification from the Lafayette City Police Department.  The four Lafayette City Police Officers were identified as:



[Charles A. Williams, Nathan LaMar, Charles Eric Wallace, and Ronald L. Dombkowski]


All four officers fully cooperated with my demands and did not give me the first problem.  Both drivers were very apologetic and appreciate of not getting a ticket.  Officer was embarrassed to the point his face was beet red.  I told both drivers and passengers that I would be providing a report to Chief Roush with all this information.

I will be the first officer to say that as a police officer have taken advantage of my position from time to time and exceed the posted speed limit.  However, the seriously high speeds of these vehicles provided an unsafe condition for the other four vehicles that the Dodge Charger passed during this incident and the one vehicle that the Impala passed.

I am confident you will handle this incident internally in a manner that will best suit these two drivers and the City of Lafayette.  If you have any questions you may call me at 317-431-1292."

The letter was respectfully submitted by Thomas E. Melville, Major, Indiana State Police.

Again, the only punishment for the errant officers was a mere letter in their files.

What is it going to take for these out-of-control officers to face real consequences, you know, the kind that real people would face had they committed these crimes?  This just isn't going to fly with the public.  The same names keep popping up every time there is illegal and dangerous behavior among the ranks. 

How can citizens have confidence in the police department as long as these double standards exist? 

Private citizens have recently been arrested for making death threats, and had a citizen been clocked in excess of 125MPH, it would not have been overlooked.

If the LPD is ever to re-gain the trust of the community, its leadership must remove repeat offenders from the ranks.

Other disciplinary reports were released via court records for Williams, which will be reported on separately.




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A New Attitude Prevails at Tippecanoe County Courthouse: Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Man Charged With Battery on LPD Police Officer; Gardner Receives Special Public Defender

What a difference a judge makes.  Courtesy and politeness are back in style in Tippecanoe County Superior Court 5 after voters threw controversial and former Judge Les Meade out out of office.  The type of professionalism citizens expect in a courtroom had been absent in Superior court 5 since the departure of retired judge, David Krause, more than a decade ago.

Newly-elected judge, Sean Persin, has made an impressive debut in his new role according to sources in the courthouse, including defendants who have appeared before him recently.

Not only does Persin treat those who come before him with respect, he's proven he is not a rubber stamp for police officers who seek search warrants.  He recently denied one such request for a search warrant since it was too vague to square up with Constitutional requirements.  Constitutionalists find this attitude to be commendable.

Readers of the Lafayette Citizen Journal have been closely following two stories that were previously reported via this blog.  Here are a couple of interesting updates involving the cases of Mark Bowers and Erin Gardner, both defendants in Meade's former court room.

Prosecutor Drops Charges of Police Battery Against Mark Bowers


The charges against Mark Bowers have been dropped.  In a surprise move, the prosecutor filed a Nolle Prosequi dismissal motion on January 5, 2015. 

Bowers had been charged with battery on  Lafayette Police Department officers last year; however, he claimed he was the one who was tasered and battered by them without just cause.

Taser wounds inflicted upon Mark Bowers
Mark's mother had called the police to complain about a service provider who was sent by a local agency to assist with house work; however, shortly after the LPD officers arrived they allegedly began harassing Mark after he said that he did not wish to speak with them.  He was subsequently tasered, arrested, and charged with battery on an officer.

The elderly woman was confused about the service provider's role.  She also had a previous history of calling the police on nursing staff when she did not get her way.  She was distressed by the episode and the invalid woman was left without a caretaker after Mark was arrested.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Bowers recently passed away after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

You can read the details of Mark's case at this link.

Erin Gardner Gets Special Public Defender


Erin Gardner recently appeared in Judge Persin's court and was greeted with courtesy and politeness that was lacking when Meade was in charge.

"I was impressed with the new judge," commented Gardner.  "I was treated like a human being and felt like I was treated fairly."

Knowing his time on the bench was coming to an end, former Judge Meade did his best to schedule Gardner's trial at the end of the year; however, attorneys in the case balked at the unusual attempt to squeeze a jury trial onto a crowded calender when none of the lawyers were prepared for it.  

Erin is also pleased to have a new deputy prosecutor appointed to her case.  She says she welcomes the professionalism as opposed to what she believes was "malicious prosecution" by Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck, who was withdrawn from the case shortly after this story was published.

Erin's former public defender was given the green light by Persin to withdraw due to a reported conflict-of-interest.  Judge Persin appointed a Special Public Defender for Gardner to pursue a jury trial in a bizarre case that started out as an alleged seat belt violation.

Gardner was injured after LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb violently yanked her from the back seat of the vehicle where she had been a passenger as the dashcam video shows.  Additional charges began to mount up for Gardner each time she refused a plea deal from Starbuck. Gardner also says she has passed two drug tests that were illegally forced upon her.  You can read the details at this link.

 Last summer, Gardner was involved in a domestic dispute involving a child custody issue.  Gardner says she has recorded and other physical evidence that she was the victim of a battery; however, LPD officers charged her with assault even though it is unclear whether the alleged victim wanted charges filed.  Gardner says she will take that case before a jury as well.
One of the injuries Gardner says she sustained as a victim of domestic battery.

She believes her unwillingness to agree to a plea bargain in the earlier case played a role in charges being brought against her in the domestic incident.

"I was never interviewed about the incident even though I reported it and my injuries to the police," said Gardner.

"It seems like a political witch hunt, because I did nothing more than defend myself against someone who had previously battered me."

Prosecutors should be commended for dropping the charges against Mark Bowers.  It also seems to many freedom-loving Constitutionalists that charges against Erin Gardner should also be dropped.  It's time to derail the crazy train in the name of fairness and justice.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Post Election Review: The Difference Between Winners and Losers at the Court House

Arrogance Was Meade's Undoing


It was a night of political upsets in Tippecanoe County. 

Perhaps the biggest local upset this week was the defeat of Les Meade in his bid for Circuit Court judge.  Coming off a primary win over challenger Earle McCoy, Meade could have been considered the front runner for November's general election; however, he was blindsided by a bombshell announcement that would cut short any staff changes Meade may have been contemplating for the court. 

Retiring Superior Court Judge Tom Busch was recruited by most of the local bar association to run against a man they did not want to work with for the next six years.  Busch had earned a reputation for being kind in demeanor.  He won friends easily from both parties and became a well-respected father figure to young, new attorneys.

Attorneys refused to file cases in Meade's court.
According to insiders, Meade was difficult to work with.  He has been described as "rude and arrogant" in demeanor.  Meade has also reportedly threatened to order lawyers and police officers to jail.  He has punished defendants with excessive sentences for merely exercising constitutional rights, and even belittled a veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which resulted in a judiciary complaint being filed against him.  Lawyers boycotted his court by refusing to file cases in it.

Meade's political enemies were numerous; however, unless one had to work with him or had the misfortune of appearing before him as a defendant, his arrogant demeanor was not well known among the general community.

Meade's campaign slogan was "experience matters."
It was a touchy situation for Meade's opponents since the rules of the bar association prevented lawyers from speaking out against judges.  To do so privately is even risky, but a few of them were brave enough to do it for the sake of the local judicial system.

Meade's campaign slogan was "experience matters;" however, if one compares the experience of Judge Busch to that of Les Meade, it is clear that Meade had none.  

Ironically, a political unknown during his first election, Meade stepped into the race to challenge a political Pariah who had earned a reputation for being rude and harsh to defendants.  A former prosecutor, Laura Zeman earned a loathsome reputation and was soundly defeated by Meade, due largely to the anti-incumbent mood of the day.  Some believe Meade let the win go to his head and became worse than his predecessor in many respects.

 More About Donat and Less About Zeman


So why did Zeman get elected this week after being thrown out of office years ago some have asked?

Insiders say Judge Greg Donat became complacent and it was time for him to go.  Zeman happened to be in the right place at just the right time.  Had someone stepped up in the General Election the way Tom Busch did, many say Zeman could have easily been defeated. 

Our advice to Laura Zeman would be: Don't get too comfortable in that robe and chair, and for Pete's sake, take off your prosecutor hat!  You aren't there to help prosecute people!  You're there to administer blind justice. 

People haven't forgotten the shabby way you treated people in the past, and we'll be watching very closely.  We have many eyes and ears in the courthouse, and hope for the sake of the community you have learned from past mistakes.  Take a lesson from honorable judges like David Krause, Don Daniels, and Tom Busch.  They treat people the way they would like someone to treat their own mothers.  Don't blame others.  You earned the reputation, and you are the only person who can change that.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Persecution of Erin Gardner Continues as Prosecutor Invokes Punishment Prior to Conviction


Deputy Prosecutor Starbuck
If awards were given out for malicious prosecution, Tippecanoe County Deputy Prosecutor Persecutor Jackie Starbuck would certainly be in contention for first prize with her most recent actions against Erin Gardner.

You remember Erin?  She was the small-framed, 100 pound woman who was violently yanked from the back seat of a car she was riding in because she didn't fork over a driver's license to LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb even though she had done nothing wrong.  Gardner was subsequently charged with resisting arrest, failure to identify herself, and failure to wear a seatbelt.

The resisting arrest charge was eventually dropped after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that passive resistance does not constitute resisting arrest.  Oh, but after Erin turned down a plea deal Jackie maliciously added a marijuana charge even though the bee pollen collector Erin had in her possession was empty.  Gardner was subsequently drug tested at the hospital where she received treatment for her cop-inflicted injuries, which resulted in a negative screening.

Each time Erin turns down a plea deal, the charges seem to get trumped up or Erin is subjected to nonsensical persecution.  The pre-trial hearing on October 6, 2014 was more of the same for the woman who refuses to capitulate to the unreasonable demands of the state.

Even though Erin has not been convicted of a crime in the case, she was ordered to submit to a drug test, supposedly a condition of her bail.  One local attorney said this is highly unusual and almost unheard of in a misdemeanor case of this type.

Erin Gardner
Erin said that when the clerk announced the negative results of the test, Ms. Starbuck seemed rattled and asked her to repeat the results.  Sorry to disappoint you, Ms. Starbuck.  It is obvious you wanted to watch Ms. Gardner being hauled off to jail to justify your maliciousness.

According to an earlier appeals court ruling, the unusual move by Starbuck and sanctioned by a pro-tem judge, who is also a former prosecutor, may have been a violation of Gardner's constitutional rights.

In 2002, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard Elizabeth Steiner's case against the State and determined that, "In ordering drug testing as a condition of bail, the trial court must determine whether there is a reasonable basis for the apparent assumption that arrestees ordered into the testing program are potential drug users...Individualized suspicion should be based on evidence of prior drug use, such as a drug-related convictions or self-reported drug use."

The Steiner case involved the defendant's possession of marijuana; however, the court rightly concluded, "The record does not reveal that the trial court made any attempt to determine whether the particular facts and circumstances of this case justified the imposition of random drug screens as a condition of bail. Steiner was accused of misdemeanor possession of marijuana; however, the record reveals no history of substance abuse by Steiner nor any other prior convictions or arrests. While evidence of a history of drug use or of prior drug or alcohol arrests would be a proper basis for imposing drug screens as a condition of bail, no such evidence was introduced that would lead the trial court to make an individualized determination that Steiner would use drugs while she was released pending trial. Therefore, we find that it was not reasonable for the trial court to impose random drug screens as a condition of Steiner’s bail and that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering that condition. Thus, we reverse and remand with instructions that the trial court vacate the condition imposing random drug screens." 

What can any rational person conclude but that Ms. Starbuck and Company are engaging in malicious prosecution of the worse kind?  Ms. Gardner, many in this community believe you must file complaints against the officers of the court who are engaging in this type of unethical conduct.  Please refer to this link for assistance.

Oh, but if you think that's the complete update, fasten your seatbelts (pun intended), because it gets even more bizarre.

Late last summer, Ms. Gardner was involved in a domestic dispute when she arrived to pick up her her son at his grandmother's house.  An argument ensued when the alleged perpetrator did not want to relinquish the child and that's when Gardner says she was physically assaulted.  Gardner says she immediately attempted to leave the home when she saw the aggressive demeanor of the alleged perpetrator.  In an attempt to protect her face, Gardner says she placed her arms and hands in a defensive posture to soften the blows.  Gardner immediately phoned the police and reported the incident; however, there is no mention of this in the one-sided and biased police report.

Gardner also photographed the injuries in hopes that she could get a restraining order against the alleged perpetrator who she says has attacked her in the past. Gardner sustained scratches and bruises throughout her body and hair pulled out.  

Without getting her side of the story, the Lafayette Police Department and Tippecanoe County Prosecutors were all too willing to charge Erin with misdemeanor battery several weeks after the incident had taken place.  Erin intends to take this case to a jury as well and is confident that the evidence will conclude that the wrong party was charged with a crime.  Fortunately for Erin she also has an audio recording that she says will exonerate her against the bogus charges.

"These charges never would have been filed had it not been for the fact that I am involved in a dispute with the Lafayette Police Department against the earlier charges," declared Gardner.

Gardner makes a good point considering the fact that there have been many instances where charges have not been filed in these types of domestic disputes.  And how ethical is it to file charges against someone while only hearing one very biased side to the story?

Gardner recently moved out of the county, because she said she is being harassed by those in the system who are hellbent on making her pay for standing up to their abuse of power.   She also says she has been followed by unmarked police cars, which she believes constitutes a form of harassment and even stalking.

There's also another matter that Gardner would like to clear up.  On September 26, 2014 Gardner was in the hospital fighting for her life against a potentially fatal disease.  She informed the court via fax that she could not appear for the previously scheduled pre-trial hearing on that date due to her medical condition.  She also said she has phone records to prove she contacted her public defender; however, the entry in Court View paints an entirely different picture:

09/26/2014 Comes now the State of Indiana by Jackie Starbuck, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. Comes also Timothy Curry, Deputy Public Defender. Defendant failed to contact the Public Defender’s Office and provide documents to her attorney or the court regarding her court date. Court resets this cause for hearing on Monday, October 6, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. in conjunction with 79D05-1409-CM-691. Defendant is ordered to appear in person. If defendant fails to appear, a warrant will issue for her arrests. Copy to: Defendant, Public Defender and State of Indiana (jkp) Entered: September 26, 2014

Does any rational thinking being believe that Erin Gardner will get fair treatment in Tippecanoe County? There is no blindfold on Lady Justice in Tippecanoe County, especially considering the fact that shortly before Erin was charged with misdemeanor battery, someone using a Tippecanoe County issued computer left a comment, which this moderator did not publish, announcing that Ms. Gardner has "beat someone up" and referred to her as "your friend who can do no wrong."

Erin will be the first to admit that she's not perfect; however, the justice system had no probable cause to arrest her in the first place and Ms. Gardner has every right to invoke her right to a jury trial without being punished for it.  This blogger and many others will stand with her in defending those sacred rights.

It's time for this story to get the attention of the U.S. Justice Department as well as media outlets throughout the state and beyond.  It is a huge waste of tax dollars to persecute a terminally ill woman who did nothing wrong at the outset to deserve any of the persecution that has followed her.

Enough is enough.  All of those involved in this travesty of justice look as foolish as Ms. Starbuck and her beer bong!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Local Citizen Fears For Safety After Being Tailgated by Unmarked Police Car, Now Threatened With Jail Time; Cop Allegedly Lies to Boss About Verbal Exchange

What would you do if you were suddenly being aggressively tailgated by an unmarked SUV on the Interstate?

 Most rational people would do what 19-year-old Luke Brenneman instinctively did to protect himself last July 16th as he was driving through Floyd County on his way home from basketball camp - seek to avoid.

Considering the fact that there had been recent reports of fake cops pulling over unsuspecting victims in Floyd County, Indiana, where this incident occurred, Brenneman sped up in an attempt to protect himself from potential harm. What Brenneman didn't realize at the time was the unmarked car was actually being driven by Clarksville Town Police Officer Tony Bryant.

 "I did not know he was an officer so I sped up a little more to get away from him and then he proceeded to pull me over," said Brenneman.

 Brenneman says it all started after he switched lanes on I-65 to pass a semi truck north of Clarksville, Indiana, which is in Floyd County. He said he was driving in the right lane and noticed a white Ford Explorer driving in the left lane.

"I came up behind the semi truck and he was still in the left lane," said Brenneman. "I had plenty of room to get in front of him, so I decided to switch lanes and pass the semi."

Brenneman says this is when the driver of the white Ford Explorer began aggressively tailgating him. Brennen eventually pulled over even though he remained wary about the identity of the individual who was driving an unmarked vehicle, not wearing a uniform, and carrying a revolver on his belt.

Brenneman recorded a testy verbal exchange with the officer, who admitted to "pacing" Brenneman's vehicle. After telling Brenneman that he was driving 100 mph, the wary driver explained that he was afraid since he was being tailgated by an unmarked vehicle.

"You came behind me and I sped up because I was afraid," Brenneman tells the officer in the video. "I didn't know who you were."

After Bryant wrote Brenneman a citation for reckless driving, Brenneman questioned the fairness of the ticket since the officer was tailgating him in what Brenneman thought was a reckless manner.

"How is it fair that you, in an unmarked vehicle, comes up behind me, and I don't care if it's pacing or not..."  said Brenneman before he was interrupted by the officer.

"It's the law," interrupted Bryant.

"That's not the law," insisted Brenneman. "It's a two second rule." (This is referring to a rule in the Indiana Driving Manual that drivers keep at least a 2 to 4 second space between vehicles to avoid accidents.)

After threatening the driver with jail if he didn't sign the ticket, Brenneman told the officer he thought it was "ridiculous" before referring to him as an "asshole."  

Cop Allegedly Lies to Boss About Verbal Exchange 

Luke Brenneman (left) with his brothers
Brenneman was clearly frustrated with the ordeal, however, decided to pay the fine and put the matter behind him. He was surprised, however, when the money order was returned to him with a notice that he must appear in court to answer to the charge of reckless driving.

 Brennaman's father reportedly called the prosecutor and was told that if they got an attorney he would likely drop the reckless driving charge and reduce it to speeding. Local attorney John Mayer was retained as private counsel and reportedly told the Brennemans that the court clerk "began to scream at him" when he tried to explain the situation to her.

"When my father talked to the attorney again he said the four clerks run the court courthouse and the prosecutor," stated Brenneman. "They did not come to agreement on anything."

Brenneman was also reportedly told that the prosecutor mentioned jail time, a felony, and loss of license for a year in addition to also being threatened with an additional charge of evading police being added.  (You might want to check out the remedy for prosecutorial vindictiveness, Mr. Brenneman.)

 Brenneman says his father also spoke to the Clarksville Assistant Police Chief who reportedly stated that Officer Bryant claimed that Brenneman used vulgar language, including the F-word, during the exchange with the officer.

Apparently, Officer Bryant didn't realize the conversation was being video recorded, because that clearly was not the case.

This is a classic example of why it is vitally important to record all exchanges with the police. This is also an example of why more people should invoke their right to a jury trial.

This writer can vouch for the character of Luke Brenneman.  He comes from one of the finest families in the area, and he's the cream of the crop when it comes to young men with good character.

 Luke is a Purdue student majoring in Organizatonal Leadership and Supervision with a 3.5 GPA. He serves as a student manager for the Purdue Men's Basketball Team and is involved in the Purdue Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In fact, Luke Brenneman was driving home from Lexington, Kentucky after having finished working at a basketball camp when the unmarked vehicle began tailgating him.

 Luke did what any rational individual would do in this circumstance. And considering the fact that there had been fake cops pulling people over in that area, he did the prudent thing. If anyone deserves a ticket for reckless driving, that would be Officer Bryant. He also deserves a reprimand for lying to his superior officer just so he can take a good kid down. No wonder it's hard for good police officers to get respect these days when you have bullies like this out making our roads unsafe to drive on.

Let this be a lesson to all of us.  Avoid that little speed trap in Clarksville, Indiana and the nasty employees in that politically-corrupt little town in Southern Indiana.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gardner Rejects Plea Deal Prompting Outrageous Requests from Prosecutor Who Wants Jury Nullifcation Arguments Banned from Courtroom

This is Erin Gardner.
This is the prosecutor.
We caught up with Erin Gardner this week to get an update on an incredible case that should send chills down the spine of every liberty-loving American.  We're asking that readers circulate this story to viral status.  We'd like to bring national attention to this egregious abuse of power by Lafayette Police Department officers, Tippecanoe County prosecutors, and a sitting judge who is facing re-election.

Based on the evidence, we believe that a few public officials and one bully cop are deserving of public reprimand and other appropriate sanctions.

Earlier this year the LCJ published a story about Gardner's unwarranted brush with the law after she questioned the actions of LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb in demanding to see her driver's license even though she was merely a backseat passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for a minor traffic infraction. 

Gardner was originally charged with resisting arrest, failure to properly identify herself, and failure to wear a seatbelt.

The resisting arrest charge was recently dropped after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that passive resistance does not constitute resisting arrest.

The dash cam video clearly shows that Gardner was passive when Officer Webb violently yanked the small-framed woman from the backseat of the vehicle even though she reportedly verbally provided him with both her social security and driver's license numbers.

Gardner also insists that she was wearing a seatbelt, and that there is no way the officer could have seen whether or not she was wearing it since it was dark prior to the car being stopped.  Gardner believes that Webb made up the phony allegation after realizing he had no probable cause to arrest her.

Gardner subsequently received medical treatment for what she says was a shoulder injury due to the aggressive conduct by the officer.  Gardner also suffers from Aplastic Anemia, a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, which has been a hindrance in defending herself against what she says are bogus charges.

In addition, after Gardner persisted in demanding a jury trial after being offered multiple plea deals, the prosecutor retaliated by adding a new charge of possession of paraphernalia.

Prosecutors have claimed that Gardner had a grinder in her possession at the time of her alleged unlawful arrest; however, Gardner says she can prove that it was not a grinder.  She says the empty container was merely a pollen collector and there is no grinding mechanism present.

After Gardner was offered a subsequent plea deal and refused, prosecutors asked Judge Les Meade to upgrade her Possession of Paraphernalia charge from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor.  Gardner says that every time she invokes her right to a jury trial and rejects a plea deal, the prosecutor responds maliciously by adding new charges or upgrading existing ones.

On July 18, 2014, during a pre-trial conference, Tippecanoe County Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck demanded that Gardner be prepared for a jury trial on July 30th even though she did not have access to critical evidence.

The state had deposed two witnesses a week earlier without giving Gardner ample notification so she could make arrangements to be present.   In fact, Gardner says she only received a two-day advance notice in the mail of the last minute depositions; however, since she was on vacation during that time, she did not receive the letter until the day after the depositions were taken.

"I had no opportunity to ask questions or to object to anything," stated Gardner.  "No one should be forced to trial without having access to witnesses and evidence."

Based on this and other points of contention, Gardner objected to the state's demands that the trial  proceed on July 30th.  Gardner stated that she did not even have copies of the depositions and could not be prepared for trial without it. 

Judge Les Meade reportedly asked why Gardner couldn't "just ask her friends what they said."  Gardner was dumbfounded by this incredible statement from a judge, who ordered that the trial proceed even though Gardner was clearly unprepared.

Gardner believes she has been maliciously pressured by the state and the court into agreeing to a plea deal.  

"What courtroom is run on heresay?" asked Gardner.  "I'm not a lawyer and even I know better than that!."

"My attorney would need real facts in front of him to properly defend me," Gardner continued.

In an incredible development, Gardner says her public defender showed up at her house a day prior to the trial stating that the judge had a change of heart about Gardner's request for a continuance and wanted to meet with all parties.  After discussing the matter, Meade granted Gardner the continuance so that she could access the state's evidence.

"I'm grateful that the judge granted the continuance," stated Gardner.  "Otherwise, it would have been grossly unfair."

Gardner says that one piece of evidence she received after the change-of-heart-ruling proves that Officer Webb lied about what happened.

She says that in the police report Webb claims that he arrested her for failure to identify herself; however, in the medical report it clearly states that Webb told hospital personnel that Gardner gave him her social security number and her driver's license number prior to being arrested.  Webb's police report states that Gardner gave him "nonsensical numbers," which contradicts what he reportedly told hospital personnel before he submitted his written report.

"I gave him both my social security number and my driver's license number," stated Gardner.

Gardner says that one of the eye-witness passengers also substantiated that Gardner offered this information prior to being violently yanked from the vehicle.

The medical report also reportedly stated that Webb told hospital personnel that Gardner "had weed under her arm;" however, this was clearly a false statement based on the evidence.  This statement also contradicts what Webb wrote in his report.

Officer Webb's statements are clearly contradictory, especially considering the fact that the medical report states that Gardner tested negative for alcohol and drug use.

Prosecutor Starbuck Wants Jury Nullifcation Banned From Courtroom

Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck
Currently pending before the Court is the State's Motion In Limine.  Incredibly, Starbuck is asking that Gardner nor her attorneys be allowed to encourage jury nullification in closing arguments even though jurors and defendants have a fundamental right to this founding principle in America's justice system.

They also asked that Gardner not be allowed to mention anything about the state's changes to any of the charges against her or the timing of their actions.

[Why not, Ms. Starbuck?  Would that show your malicious motivations against an innocent woman?]

Among a list of eleven items in the motion, prosecutors include a request that there be made no mention of Webb's alleged "excessive amount of force...in the removal of Defendant from the vehicle."

In addition, they want no mention of "any past, pending, or future civil litigation against the Lafayette Police Department or officers employed by the Lafayette Police Department."

"How could you have a fair trial with all of those conditions," questioned Gardner.

Gardner's Indianapolis attorneys have stated they believe Gardner's arrest was invalid due to the initial violation of her constitutional rights, so all subsequent charges are invalid.  They believe Gardner is being punished for exercising her right to a jury trial with malicious charges being added every time she turns down a plea offer.

The latest plea offer reportedly included a diversion with all charges dropped, unsupervised probation for six months, and a $300 fine.  

So, we must ask the obvious questions.  If there are no criminal charges why would punishment be demanded?  And why would prosecutors pursue such a lame case to the point of wasting tax dollars on expensive witness depositions for an alleged petty crime with minor consequences?

This type of abuse of power is what angers taxpayers and liberty-loving citizens, especially when there are reports of felony offenses being overlooked by prosecutors because of personal connections to alleged criminals or relatives of alleged criminals.

Wouldn't time and money be better spent on real crime, such as murders,  robberies, and rapes that are occurring in the Lafayette area in record numbers due to the influx of gang members from Chicago and Indianapolis?

And who can take a deputy prosecutor like Jackie Starbuck seriously when she posts unflattering photos of herself drinking from a beer bong on Facebook.  Shouldn't she be a better example?  The buck stops with you, Mr. Harrington! 

The taxpayers of Tippecanoe County deserve much better.  Justice demands that all charges against Erin Gardner be dropped.  Stop the witch hunt now and check your egos at the door. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dangerous Attitudes Prevail in Local Police Community

There have been many alarming comments made via the Internet over the past several weeks by members of law enforcement and their supporters in response to police misconduct and brutality.  There seems to be a prevailing attitude among a small but vocal minority that the victims of police brutality and misconduct somehow deserved the abuse.

Specifically, Tim VanderPlaats somehow deserved the death threats and subsequent beatings because he is a "ladies man," and the wheelchair victim deserved being shoved out of his wheelchair because he has a criminal history.  Remarkably, some also believe the paraplegic deserved being toppled over because he ran into the cop's shin.  Erin Gardner deserved being yanked from the backseat of a car and slammed to the ground because she questioned authority. 

Citizens must send a strong and loud message that there is no room for these types of dangerous attitudes in our community.  These futile attempts to deflect attention from the bully to the victim do nothing but add to the shame of rogue cops.  In fact, the cops in these instances pose a greater threat to society than those charged with alleged crimes.

There is no excuse for police misconduct or brutality.  Whether the victim is an upstanding citizen or someone with a criminal history, police officers are commissioned to uphold the letter of the law with integrity.  When public trust in policing has been broken it is difficult to repair, and as long as rogue officers remain on the force it will remain beyond repair.   How can any citizen trust the local police when bullies with badges are still policing our streets?  Insiders may be able to distinguish good officers from the bad apples, but no one can expect the general public to know.   

What the public does know is that there are officers patrolling the streets who threatened to kill a man.  There are officers patrolling the streets who discharged their guns into private property after driving drunk.  They reportedly avoided arrest after a high ranking officer with personal ties to one of the offending officers ordered their release.  These officers arrest citizens for much less than the offenses they allegedly committed themselves.  They should not be above the laws that they arrest others for.

The damage caused by a handful of police officers is difficult to assess, but one thing is for sure.  The benefit of the doubt will no longer be given to the man with the badge when there are no video cameras to capture questionable exchanges between citizens and police officers.  We can expect a rise in requests for jury trials in the future.