Friday, January 13, 2017

WLFI News Ethics Called Into Question As Reporter's Personal Friendships With Sheriff's Political Opponents Exposed

WLFI Reporter Kayla Sullivan
Is there a politically-orchestrated witch hunt being waged against Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard for the advantage of a political opponent?  Are biased "news-tipsters" colluding with Kayla Sullivan, a news reporter at WLFI News, to do their dirty work?  It sure looks suspicious to some LCJ readers.

Our Citizen Journal panel thought the questions were fair, especially after learning that several of Richard's political opponents are listed as Facebook friends with the WLFI reporter responsible for many of the negative stories about Richard. 

One of Sullivan's Facebook "friends" is none other than Jason Dombkowski, the WLPD Chief who recently announced his intention to run against Richard for Sheriff.  He is friendly enough with Sullivan that he initiated the "like" Facebook feature for some of her glam-selfie shots. 

Could his approval of her photograph be an attempt to gain favor?  Could it influence Sullivan as she writes negative stories about a political opponent of a "friend?"   Does Dombkowski have unfair access to the news reporter that Richard doesn't have?  How can a reporter maintain objectivity when these perceived unethical appearances certainly don't pass the smell test for journalistic ethics?  "Avoid conflicts of interests, real or perceived," warns the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics Society. 

The appearance of conflict has been suggested by supporters of Sheriff Richard.   It appears they have a valid point.   The timing of these politically-manufactured "scandals" is also suspicious as the stories started coming fast and furious shortly after Dombkowski announced his intention to run for sheriff.

LtoR: Tracy Brown, Jason Huber, Jason Dombkowski
Dombkowski isn't the only Richard detractor to show up on Sullivan's Facebook page.
Another notable "Friend of Kayla" is Jason Huber, TCPD deputy and friend of former sheriff Dave Heath.  Heath and Richard squared off in a contentious political battle two years ago.  Heath angrily resigned as Republican Party Chairman soon after taking the hard loss. 

On Monday, January 13, Huber posted a link to this Journal and Courier commentary about Richard to his Facebook page, which gained a quick and positive response from Chief Dombkowski.   "I am very much looking forward to the competitive election process for the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's election," commented Dombkowski.

There are many other public officials from the Who's Who of Republican Office Holders listed as Facebook friends of Kayla Sullivan.  Some of those "friends" spoke out against Sheriff Richard during the election and even went so far as to support a third-party candidate after Heath lost the bitter primary campaign.

Richard earned the votes of many Blue Dog Democrats as well as conservative Republicans.  His political opponents didn't take the loss well and are apparently working behind-the-scenes in an attempt to oust Richard from the powerful Sheriff's position, although it's falling as flat as it did for Donald Trump's political enemies when they used similar tactics against him.  In fact, some of Richard's supporters believe these tactics by smear merchants will backfire the same way it did in the recent presidential election.

"Maybe Barry should get his own Twitter account," suggested one supporter.  "He could do what Donald does and take his message directly to the people."

There have been other negative stories written about Richard since he took office, and it seems obvious to many that someone has been leaking "manufactured information" to a willing news reporter. 

One story, obviously intended to hurt Richard, blew up in the faces of those who sought to smear him.  The public overwhelmingly supported the sheriff for wanting to encourage an inmate toward positive rehabilitation.

Richard's political enemies were going to have to come up with something more if they wanted to take out the popular George Award winner.  Their earlier attempt at disparaging him over the fact that he innovatively saved the life of a school teacher by seeking out a drone from a neighboring county prosecutor's office only cemented Barry's support. 

Prosecutor Pat Harrington Should Address His Own Scandal Say Critics

Another story was soon leaked to Sullivan since the earlier one fell flat.  The latest "scandal" was about a broken finger print machine.   Pat Harrington, Tippecanoe County prosecutor, was quick to criticize the sheriff even though Richard's hands were temporarily tied because the state would not accept ink prints taken the old-fashioned way, a fact that Sullivan conveniently omitted from her original story.

Pat Harrington
As an aside, Harrington's critics say that he should address his own scandals involving the violation of state laws concerning the misappropriation of civil forfeiture funds before pointing fingers at Richard, who has not broken any laws.

Harrington has been called out repeatedly for these violations, leaving Tippecanoe County citizens vulnerable to the types of lawsuits that was filed and still pending against Marion County.  Harrington has been sharply criticized by Indianapolis blogger and former attorney, Paul Ogden, for what he believes are illegal practices when it comes to Indiana Civil Forfeiture laws. 

[Attorneys from the Institute for Justice pursue these types of cases on behalf of citizens who are harmed by the illegal actions of prosecutors.

"This troubling situation has been years in the making.  Decades ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law allowing police and prosecutors to deduct 'law enforcement costs' from forfeiture proceeds, stated an IJ spokesperson via its blog.

 "The law requires them to deliver only surplus money to the school fund.[4] That in itself violates the Indiana Constitution, which commands that 'all forfeitures' go to the school fund. 'All forfeitures' does not mean 'some' forfeitures, and in the case of Indianapolis, it certainly does not mean 'no' forfeitures.  But given a yard, Indianapolis’s police and prosecutors have taken a mile. Even though the Civil Forfeiture Statute permits them to deduct only actual costs related to a specific forfeiture case, law enforcement in Indianapolis pockets every penny, of every forfeiture, every time."  Stay tuned for further local details and news on this subject.]

Because of these types of conflicts of interests, the Lafayette Citizen Journal will become more active in the coming months, because we agree with former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Coming Soon:  WLFI Christmas Party Raises Eyebrows

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mayor Roswarski Right to Stand Up Against Needle Exchange Program

Mayor Roswarski
Mayor Tony Roswarski was right to challenge the proposed ill-conceived needle exchange program and we commend him for it. Tippecanoe County citizens are weary of the violent crime sprees infecting their community, and this will only serve to add to those woes.

Placing an exchange program near parks and schools is intolerable, not to mention the huge liability risk associated with handing out needles to drug users. Who will pay the potential judgments when
the county is sued for providing the needles that assisted in probable deaths caused by overdoses? Taxpayers will likely be on the hook for it.

Prison reform should be implemented to address this issue. Locking up drug users for long periods of time exacerbates the problem and gives addicts a place to meet new addicts.

A better way to address the problem is to offer recovery help and real hope to desperate addicts. We applaud Mayor Roswarski for working with the faith-based community. Real strides have been made, and it was refreshing to see the Journal and Courier report on one such program.

We call on concerned citizens to make their voices heard. The safety of our children and grandchildren may depend on it.  Call the Commissioners today at (765) 423-9215.

Monday, November 14, 2016

LPD Scandals Continue to Plague Community

It doesn't look like the Lafayette Police Department has learned its lesson since the last fiasco involving drunken police officers.  The community has barely had a chance to heal from the scandal involving drunken officers who threatened to kill a private citizen.  Now, we learn of new allegations involving two officers recently suspended for alleged drunken behavior. 

With few details being disseminated to the public, we can only imagine that it must be shocking considering the punishment was similar to the offenses committed by Officer Charles Williams, Jr. and his drunken cohorts.  Many in the community believe mere suspensions were not enough and that the officers should have been criminally charged for their alleged criminal offenses.   Now, Officers William Meluch and Blake Baker-Switzer have also received short suspensions at the recommendation of the merit board. 

Unfortunately, these new veiled allegations and subsequent mild consequences come as no surprise to the public.  This is the type of behavior that one can expect when police officer-perpetrators are not held to the same standards of justice that Joe and Jane Public would receive.

LPD Police Chief Patrick Flannelly declined to reveal the misconduct by the officers, but told a Journal and Courier reporter that "a majority of discipline cases never rise to the level of merit board."  "...We're always going to hold ourselves to those standards that our community would expect," Flannelly commented.

With all due respect, there are many in the community who believe the standards of accountability for a police officer are much less than they would be for a private citizen even though they should be equal to or even higher.  Had Joe or Jane Citizen committed the offenses that some in the LPD have been accused of, he or she would have faced charges and a trip to the county jail. 

Even Purdue University has higher standards for its employees.  Just ask Pablo Malavenda, the former assistant dean of students, who was fired from his university job after being charged with theft from Wal-Mart.  The excuse that the drunken officers who threatened to kill a private citizen weren't fired because they were not on duty when they committed the alleged crimes doesn't resonate with the public for the same reasons that Pablo didn't get to keep his job.  The integrity of the University was at stake.  Where is the integrity at the LPD?

The community would like nothing more than to respect the Lafayette Police Department, but the bad apples and its ineffective leadership is making it difficult.  We will continue to salute the many officers who do their jobs with distinction, but when officers do not receive the respect they believe they are deserved, please understand that the bad apples may be part of the cause.   One bad apple truly can spoil the whole bunch.

The Lafayette Citizen Journal is back because it is apparent lessons have not been learned.  The citizens of Lafayette deserve better.  We can be reached at 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

LPD Officers Apologize to Vanderplaats for Behavior As Part of Legal Settlement

Tim VanderPlaats
It's finally over for Tim VanderPlaats.  The legal battle that began over four years ago against the Lafayette Police Department and individual police officers came to an end this month after an out-of-court settlement was reached. 

VanderPlaats was beaten unconscious near his home shortly after he was verbally harassed and threatened by drunken LPD police officers at a local restaurant.  None of the officers were charged with the crimes they committed, and they all kept their jobs as police officers.  This was unacceptable to the victim, so he pursued the matter in court.

An appeals court judge eventually relieved the City of Lafayette from the case, but allowed it to proceed against individual officers.  Charlie Williams, Jr. had admitted that he left graphic and threatening voice messages. 

VanderPlaats contended that the officer suspected of beating him was, in fact, on duty at the time the crime occurred; however, unless one of the officers breaks the "code of silence," there is not enough evidence to prove it.

Ironically, VanderPlaats received the one thing he wanted from the beginning, which was an apology from the officers and their city bosses.  In exchange for closing the matter, VanderPlaats recently accepted letters of apology from the City of Lafayette, Charlie Williams, Jr., and Michael Barthelemy.

"They said they were sorry for all the unlawful calls, terrible voicemails and being drunk and stupid," stated Tim VanderPlaats.  "They said they would take it all back if they could."

VanderPlaats was also reimbursed by the City of Lafayette for the enormous legal fees he incurred in the matter.   "It was never about the money," said VanderPlaats.  "It was always about the injustice of it all."

VanderPlaats is relieved it is over, and that although it was horrible what they did, he says apologies were helpful as he seeks to find closure for the horrific nightmare that he and his family suffered.

The letters have not yet been released to the public; however, VanderPlaats says that the sincerest apology came from Charlie Williams, Jr.  "He seemed to be genuinely sorry," commented VanderPlaats.

VanderPlaats' supporters are also happy that it's over for Tim.

"He took on the establishment for the good of the community," commented one Lafayette resident who asked to remain unnamed.  "If an average citizen would have committed these crimes, he would have a criminal record now, and he certainly wouldn't be put in charge of upholding the laws they broke."

Tim is moving on with his life, and he doesn't have time to hold any grudges.  He is now happily married and the couple have a beautiful baby girl to focus on.

It's too bad it took city officials over four years to do the right thing.  Properly handled, this matter could have been settled years ago.  Victims should not be forced to seek justice in civil court.  The individual officers were finally set free to make proper amends, so now their lives can move in a more positive direction as well. 

Let the healing begin.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Prosecutor Harrington Ignores Crimes Committed by Lafayette Police Officers as Statute of Limitations Draws Near

Why is Harrington refusing to charge cops who made death threats?
It seems like no one in city or county government wants to take responsibility for the crimes committed against Tim VanderPlaats, the Lafayette citizen who was beaten up after LPD cops threatened to kill him, cut him up into little pieces, and throw him into the fireplace.

The city claims the officers acted outside their official duties, so they continue to carry a badge because there has been no prosecution to date. 

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington had earlier appointed a special prosecutor from Howard County to look into the matter; however, since the wayward cops had not yet admitted to the criminal acts at that time, no charges were filed due to lack of evidence.

According to inside sources, attorneys for VanderPlaats recently approached Indiana State Police officials about bringing charges against the officers since admissions have since been made.

Officials have reportedly stated that Harrington has no plans to bring charges and that he is the only one who can proceed with a criminal case.   They also reportedly stated that Harrington can ask the special prosecutor to take a look at the additional evidence that police officers admitted to making the death threats.

Time is running out for charges to be filed since the statute of limitations will expire in about four months.

"This is just our system protecting their own," stated the insider.  "[Harrington] is not doing his job.  He's a prideful cop protector."

So what does a citizen do when the local justice system is blind, biased, and corrupt?

With two sets of standards in this community, are those without badges and power really safe?  It certainly doesn't feel like it. 

What is different about the young man who was sent to prison for making death threats against elected officials compared to the graphic death threats made against a private citizen?

Citizens may want to ask Pat Harrington that question.  He can be reached at 423-9305.

In the meantime, it's time for citizens to start looking for a new prosecutor in time for the next election.  We must not forget this dereliction of duty and make it a political rallying cry at the next election.  Our safety may depend upon it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Did Tippecanoe County Prosecutors File New Charges in Retaliation for Blog Exposure in Cop Brutality Case?

Gardner fights back
Erin Gardner says she will be filing a complaint with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission against Tippecanoe County prosecutors after making a shocking discovery that their alleged motivation for prosecuting her (again) is because they didn't like their exposure for malicious prosecution by the Lafayette Citizen Journal!

Yes, you read that right.  Her court-appointed special conflict attorney reportedly told a credible defense witness that prosecutors are going after her again because of the published stories about her case on this blog.

The court-appointed special conflict attorney also reportedly told the witness that prosecutors "complain about the Lafayette Citizen Journal stories all the time."

Erin has finally had enough, and she plans to do something about it.  She is currently seeking private counsel and plans to file a complaint with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission against local prosecutors who made prejudicial statements against her to court-appointed defense counsel.

First, a little background:

A record number of readers followed this blog during its reporting on the persecution of Erin Gardner, the young woman who had several bogus charges leveled against her after being roughed up by Lafayette Police Officer Jeff Webb.   The story was so bizarre that it was highlighted on Charlie White's Indiana Talk Radio program a few times.  After months of legal hassles, Erin finally prevailed.

Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck
Gardner refused to negotiate her civil rights away, and in doing so, she exposed a system of corruption and injustice in Tippecanoe County that citizens rarely see.  Each time Erin refused a plea bargain in the case, additional bogus charges were added by Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck as an obvious means to intimidate the defendant.  Starbuck was later removed from the case after details of her actions became public via the LCJ.

At one point, Starbuck unsuccessfully tried to convince former Judge Les Meade to move the case to drug court, even though Erin tested negative for every drug test that was forced upon her.

"They were desperate to find something to justify their actions," said Gardner.  "I believe they are worried about a civil lawsuit."

Gardner Attacked in Domestic Dispute; Charged With Crime A Month Later After Refusing Plea Bargain Deal in Police Brutality Case

In the midst of all her legal hassles during that time, Erin was involved in a minor domestic incident after she attempted to pick her son up from the child's father and was refused.  Erin said that her son's paternal grandmother became verbally abusive and was swearing in front of her son, so at this point Erin attempted to leave and told her son she would contact him later as she did not wish to escalate the situation.  Erin contends that the grandmother attacked her in front of her son as she was trying to exit the door.    

Bruising Gardner allegedly sustained in domestic attack
"I am a peaceful person, and I do not want my son exposed to violence," said Erin.  "I did my best to avoid any type of confrontation and acted in self-defense."  Erin said that the grandmother pulled her hair, held her down, and began repeatedly punching her to the point that she could not escape.

"I was screaming for Tony to get his mom off of me," Erin said.  "Afterwards, I called the police and Child Protection Services."

Both parties reportedly phoned the Lafayette Police Department even though Erin doubted she would receive fair treatment because of her previous claims of police brutality.  Her suspicions became a reality when she discovered that a police report was created based solely on allegations from her perpetrators, while ignoring her claims.

"I find it interesting that the statements from mother and son were verbatim in the police report,"  said Gardner.  "It looked like a cut and paste job, and it's not in any kind of language they would use."

"The claims against me are absolutely false, and I doubt charges would have been filed had I not exercised my rights in the other case," said Gardner.  "I'm looking forward to proving my innocence to a jury of my peers."

Prosecutors filed battery charges against Erin a month after the incident occurred and quickly used them against her as a bargaining chip in the earlier case.  Erin was offered a plea bargain deal for the first case, wherein the battery charges would be dropped if she would agree to a diversion in the seat belt case.  Erin stood firm and said her civil rights were not for sale.  

"To put a child through another ordeal in retaliation against his mother is unconscionable," said Gardner.  "It was bad enough he had to be present when his grandmother attacked his mother, but now he is affected by a corrupt legal system attacking her."

Attorneys have confirmed that these types of domestic hearsay cases rarely get filed, and pointed to the likelihood that it was filed as a means to intimidate Erin into submission to a desperate plea bargain offer.

It seems that local prosecutors didn't like the fact that they were left with egg on their faces after the judge scolded them for wasting court time for a trivial misdemeanor case where the defendant's rights were clearly violated.

Rather than dismiss the baseless charges against Erin, prosecutors are once again wasting valuable resources and court time by continuing to prosecute her for a case that rests largely on the word of a mother-son team with questionable credibility.

In contrast, Erin's evidence, which includes a photograph of the bruises she sustained at the hands of her alleged attacker and the recorded testimony of her son, appears to indicate that she was a victim, not a perpetrator.

Prosecutors recently moved forward with witness depositions.  Erin said she was barred from being present during her accuser's testimony even though she had requested to be included in the proceedings to ensure that appropriate follow-up questions were asked by her court-appointed public defender.  

Gardner also contends that her attorney, who was appointed by the court as "special conflict counsel" promised things would change; however, she believes they have only gotten worse.

"Not only was I barred from being present for my accuser's deposition, my attorney asked one of my witnesses to speak with the prosecutor weeks before a deposition."

"Why would I do that?" asked the witness.  "That wouldn't be in Erin's best interest."

Other attorneys agree that it would be uncommon for a defense witness to be questioned without counsel prior to a deposition.

"Erin just wants to be small again," commented the witness.  "She doesn't like the limelight, and she just wants to live a normal life again."

Gardner has since moved out of the community to avoid further harassment.

After speaking with Erin's court-appointed attorney, the defense witness expressed serious concerns to the LCJ about alleged prosecutorial misconduct that Erin would like to have investigated by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

"When I asked Erin's attorney why they were going after Erin based on flimsy, hearsay evidence, he told me that they're taking this to trial because of the blog [LCJ] she's involved with," commented the witness.

"He told me [the proseuctors] talk about the blog all the time, and it's why they are going after her."

LCJ Responds to Baseless Allegations

The buck stops with Harrington
Erin Gardner is not a member of the LCJ writing team.  LCJ members first became aware of Erin after she brought her story to us via our Facebook page.  After reviewing the evidence, we believe that Erin was being treated unfairly by public employees who took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution.

We are greatly concerned that they continue to violate the constitutional rights of an American citizen.  Every citizen has a right to petition their government for a redress of grievances without fear of retaliation, a right to free speech (including via the Internet), a right to a jury trial without coercion, as well as a fundamental right to due process without being forced to submit to unconstitutional drug testing prior to a conviction.

The buck stops at the desk of Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington, and we call on him to investigate these serious allegations.  The way this case has been handled is beyond shameful!  We realize that some prosecutors are accustomed to intimidating citizens into relinquishing their right to a jury trial via the corrupt plea bargain system; however, it is a sacred, fundamental right that should not be toyed or tampered with.  When citizens elect to exercise that right, they should not be punished for it.

For a prosecutor to offer the LCJ  as a reason for going after Erin Gardner,  it is deserving of a trip in front of the Disciplinary Commission.  We encourage Ms. Gardner to follow through with a complaint.  And of course, we will keep the public updated, because "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

This could happen to any one of us, and it is likely happening to others who do not have a voice or a forum.  This is the type of story that the LCJ was created for.  People like Erin Gardner deserve to at least have a voice while they are being legally raped by a corrupt judicial system.  We will continue to follow the persecution of Erin Gardner and put the abusers of the constitution on our public Wall of Shame.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

VanderPlaats' Attorney Accuses LPD Cops of "Drunken Thuggery;" Shocking New Details Emerge In Response

It's really hard to imagine why these same cops, who seem to routinely commit crimes without consequence, are still patrolling the streets. You will read many shocking details involving cops who admit to some of what they have been accused of doing. The admitted abuse of power cannot be tolerated by Lafayette citizens. These cops should be receiving pink slips! Rather than summarize this document, it is imperative that citizens read every word of it. Stay safe. The "thugs" sometimes wear badges and carry guns. Are any of us really safe?

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