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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

LPD Faces Another Lawsuit After Officers Taser & Arrest Man Even Though He Repeatedly Invoked His Right to Remain Silent

Mark Bowers said he did his best to avoid the police last January, but officers apparently didn't like it when he invoked his right to remain silent after telling them that he did not call them and he had done nothing wrong.  According to Bowers they certainly didn't respect that right to remain silent.

One of several injuries caused by LPD tasering
Bowers said his civil rights were violated and that he has notified the City of his intent to sue the City of Lafayette, Lafayette Police Department, and three officers who were involved in the incident.  Officers M. L. Brown, Dobrin, and Cahoon were named individually in Bowers' complaint.

Bowers stated that he has initiated contact with the law firm that is currently representing Tim VanderPlaats as well as the paraplegic who was thrown from his wheelchair by an LPD officer last October and that he will likely retain them for the civil lawsuit in the near future.

Bowers said it began after his invalid mother became agitated with a homemaker who was sent by Area IV Council on Aging to help with light housekeeping.   Apparently Bowers' elderly mother was confused about the type of help the homemaker was required to provide.  The homemaker tried explaining to Mrs. Bowers that her duties did not include personal care, which she had expected, but that she could only provide light housekeeping duties.  The homemaker had been working in the kitchen with the elderly woman's son when Mrs. Bowers became upset and called the police.

According to Bowers his mother has a history of calling the police when she has become upset with various caregivers in the past while in nursing home care, so it did not surprise him when the police showed up on his doorstep on the afternoon of January 31, 2014.

"My mother called me from the other room to say someone was at the door," stated Bowers.  "I answered the door and was greeted by two LPD officers."

Bowers stated that when officers asked, "What can we do for you?" he replied, "Nothing, I did not call you."He said his mother spoke up to say she had called them, so he opened the door to allow the officers to speak with his mother. Mark then went back to the kitchen where he had been working. 

Mark said that when he attempted to get his phone from the office he was barred at the doorway by Officer Brown who had stopped him by bumping into him.

"He told me to back up and told me I was in his space," stated Bower. 

After telling the officer that he was in his own home Bowers said the officer informed him that he had no rights and he could do whatever he wanted because Bowers was not on a lease or owner of the home even though Bowers was the primary caregiver for his invalid mother and had lived in the home for two and a half years."

Bowers said at this point he did not argue with the officer.

"I backed up and stood at the counter with my hands at my side," said Bower.  "Officer Brown then informed me that I have history."  This claim was mentioned in the police report, which indicated that Officer Cahoon had informed Officer Brown via radio transmission that Bowers had "a history" with police.

Bowers said that he asked what he was talking about in reference to the history and then out of nowhere and without any warning the officer tried to grab him.

"I got scared and pulled away asking him not to touch me," said Bowers.  Bowers said he asked if he was being detained, and the officer replied that he was being arrested for assaulting him.  Bowers denied assaulting the officer and then says he submitted to the arrest once officers told him he was under arrest.

Bowers vehemently denies touching the officer and stated it was the other way around.

"Officer Brown then grabbed me again and threw me up against the counter and upper cabinets with my hands behind my back," said Bowers.  "At this point a second officer came from the living room and they both kept telling me repeatedly to stop resisting.  I was not resisting and kept repeating myself."

"They had my hands behind my back and then they told me they were going to tase me," said Bowers.  "I told them that I hadn't done anything wrong and asked them to please stop.  Over and over I pleaded with them to stop.  The officer repeated three times that he was going to tase me while all the time my hands were behind my back."

In the tort claim notice, Bowers claims that at this point Officer Dobrin pushed him to the center of the kitchen so Officer Brown could tase him again.  He said that Officer Dobrin used a stun gun in his side and thigh areas four times.

"The entire time I pleaded with them to stop, yelling to my mother to tell them to please stop," said Bowers.

Bowers said the officers ordered him to the floor and that he was unable to move his body due to the tasing.

"I told them I couldn't move," said Bowers.  "They threatened they would tase me again."

Bowers said that after he was able to get down on the floor Officer Brown jumped in the air landing down on his back with his knee while also pushing his head to the floor while still telling him to stop resisting even though he was unable to resist.

"I could not breathe with his knee in my back, because when he came down on me he knocked the wind out of me in addition to the effects of the tasing and stun gun," said Bowers.

Bowers said that as he was being escorted from his home, his invalid mother became upset and pleaded with the officers not to take her son.  She reportedly told the officers that her son had done nothing wrong and that he was her sole caretaker and that she could not be left alone.

Police officers left an invalid elderly woman alone without any care when they took her son away.

As Mark was being taken out of the home to be transported, the officers observed another individual and asked how long he had been there and who he was talking to via the speaker phone.  The witness told the officers he was talking to the Care Link Operator.   Mark's mother had activated her Care Link alarm to report alleged police abuse and the witness was reportedly telling the operator that the police had beaten his friend up.  At this point, the officers reportedly ordered Mrs. Bowers and the witness to "hang it up!"  They then asked where the individual came from.  The witness told the officers he had been there the entire time and witnessed all of it.  Mark says the conversation was recorded by Care Link.

The officers made no mention of this witness or phone call in their police reports, which Mark says are full of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in comparison.  The officer's reports did, however, admit that Bowers had told them he did not wish to speak with them during the ordeal.

One report refers to the Area IV homemaker as Mark's girlfriend; however, this is not true according to Bowers.  He says he did not know the woman outside of her professional role as a service provider.  Bowers was and is currently engaged to his fiance' (pictured).

Mark Bowers with his fiance
"[The housekeeper] was there to provide housekeeping services to my mom," Mark said.  "It was the housekeeper my mom was upset with, not me, and I told the officers repeatedly that I did not wish to speak to them, which is my right.  That's when they got mad and started badgering me.  I did nothing to deserve any of it."

So once again the public is left wondering whether these officers could have de-escalated a tense situation rather than attempt to badger someone who they had already pre-determined to have "a history with police." 

Mark says his only history is that he does not talk to the police and will exercise his right to remain silent due to the history of LPD and their excessive force against private citizens.

Gone are the days where citizens automatically give police officers the benefit of the doubt.  There has been plenty of evidence of police officers, locally and from around the country, abusing their power.

What did these officers accomplish?  Taxpayers get to foot the bill for yet another lawsuit.  An elderly invalid was left alone to fend for herself.  This situation could have been avoided had the officers respected the wishes of a citizen to exercise his right to remain silent.  The cockiness of these officers to get into the face and space of someone who had committed no crime is indefensible.   It's about time that the entire LPD police force take a remediation course in constitutional rights.

LPD leadership must take a serious look at requiring police officers to wear body cameras as a way to protect citizens and good police officers.  This practice has been known to decrease excessive force use by 70%.  Rather than spend money defending against lawsuits, wouldn't it be wiser to purchase body cameras for officers?

We know there are good officers at the Lafayette Police Department; however, these continual cases alleging police brutality are giving the entire department a bad name.  



Friday, July 11, 2014

No Trust in LPD: Allegations that LPD Cops Avoided Arrest After Shooting Up Private Property While Out Drinking and Driving; Charges Dropped Against Gardner

Our city made world wide news recently after a video of a Lafayette police officer knocking a paraplegic out of a wheelchair began circulating.  It became a sensational news item because there was videotape footage of the incident.  Seeing really is believing.  Aside from the friends and family of the former police lieutenant, most people were shocked by what they saw and rightly condemned the actions.

Lafayette is quickly becoming known for its bad boy police force.  Earlier this year details about death threats against Tim VanderPlaats and his subsequent beating were released to the public via court documents.

In addition, Andrew Phillips filed a lawsuit against the City of Lafayette and its police department alleging excessive force was used against him.   Phillips also says that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

Resisting arrest charges were dropped against Gardner
Erin Gardner was slammed to the ground in brute fashion by a burly LPD officer.  The dash cam video was made public via this blog.   Gardner was merely a passenger in the backseat of a car that had reportedly touched the center line as the driver swerved slightly to avoid hitting a parked car.  (The Indiana Court of Appeals has recently ruled that crossing the center line to avoid an accident is allowable.)

LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb used this as an excuse to initiate a traffic stop and began harassing Gardner for her identification.  Gardner tried explaining to the officer that she did not have a driver's license with her and she recited her Social Security number several times in an attempt to identify herself.

After Gardner raised the probable cause issue, Webb told her she wasn't wearing a seatbelt even though there was no possible way for the officer to see whether or not she had been wearing one prior to the stop. 

Gardner was subsequently charged with resisting arrest; however, that particular count was recently dropped by the prosecutor, presumably because of a recent unanimous Indiana Supreme Court ruling that determined passive resistance does not constitute resisting arrest.

Editor's Note:  Many readers have questioned the date stamp in Gardner's photo.  It's a fair question and simple to answer.  Apparently the officer did not set the camera's date stamp correctly.  It appears that even the evidence handling was bungled by the bully officer. 

Is There Another Lawsuit Coming?

Another citizen has suggested he soon will give the City of Lafayette and the LPD notice of his intention to file a tort action against the agencies for claims that two officers used excessive force and violated his constitutional rights when they arrested and tasered him and later charged him with resisting arrest last January in his home.  The LCJ will bring details of that story as they emerge.

LPD OFFICERS ALLEGEDLY FIRED GUNS AT PRIVATE PROERTY WHILE OFF DUTY & INTOXICATED SAY INSIDERS

It has also been reported by department insiders, but never made public, that at least two LPD officers were disciplined for using their guns in the destruction of private property in rural Tippecanoe County at the home of a private resident.  Insiders say the officers had been drinking and driving when the incident occurred but that they were not on duty at the time.  These same officers reportedly still work for the department.

The gun firing incident was allegedly reported to the police; however, none of the officers were arrested according to insiders, because another high-ranking officer from an adjoining police agency reportedly ordered that they be driven home and released.   Some inside the department were reportedly stunned that the officers involved in the alleged crimes were not terminated from their employment as police officers. 

So is it any wonder that members of the public have a difficult time trusting the local police?  How can an average citizen distinguish the good officers from the bad?  How can anyone blame the average citizen for feeling dismayed by it all?

The tarnished image of a city's police force hurts everyone, including the good officers on the force who do their jobs with distinction.  These incidents and others have caused many in the community to lose faith in its police force.  There is something seriously wrong when law-abiding citizens are as scared of the police as they are the gang members that roam our once safe city.

Another question being asked by citizens is why was Tom Davidson recommended for termination, but the rogue officers involved in threatening a private citizen with death able to avoid similar consequences?  Was the difference a video?   And why are officers still wearing badges after allegedly driving drunk and destroying private property with police-issued guns?

Until all of the officers in question are off the force, don't expect the public image of the LPD to improve, and most of all, don't expect the community watchdogs to go away.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court Overturns Man's Conviction for Resisting Arrest After Refusing IMPD Police Order to Stop

The Indiana Supreme court threw out Keion Gaddie's conviction for Resisting Law Enforcement after unanimously concluding that police did not have probable cause to detain the man.  This decision will likely change the way police officers throughout the state conduct themselves in situations where no crimes have been committed.   In many jurisdictions; however, police officers are not properly trained, so citizens must be diligent in understanding their rights when dealing with law enforcement.

"To avoid conflict with the Fourth Amendment, Indiana code section 35-44.1-3-1(a)(3), the statute defining the offense of Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing after being ordered to stop must be construed to require that a law enforcement officer's order to stop be based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  Under the facts and circumstances of this case, a reasonable trier of fact could not have found that the officer's order to stop was based on such probable cause or reasonable suspicion.  The evidence was thus insufficient to convict the defendant of the crime of Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing a police order to stop.  We reverse the judgment of the trial court," read the conclusion.

It all began on August 4, 2012 when IMPD Officer Jeffery Newlin responded to a report of a "disturbance" at an Indianapolis residence.  When the officer arrived he saw about eight people, including the defendant, standing on the front porch walking along a side yard toward the back.  Officer Newlin ordered the group to return to the front yard so he could watch them until back-up arrived; however, Gaddie continued walking toward an alley.  Officer Newlin followed him, screaming at him to stop; however, Gaddie continued to walk ignoring the commands of the officer.

Gaddie was charged with Resisting Law Enforcement by fleeing even though the officer admitted that he had not seen the defendant or anyone else commit a crime prior to ordering Gaddie to stop.  The defendant testified that he lived at the residence where the incident occurred.  The trial court found the defendant guilty at the bench trial.

The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, and the IMPD asked the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the case.  The Indiana Supreme Court justices unanimously sided with the Indiana Court of Appeals in deciding that Gaddie's arrest was not warranted since he committed no crime and was under no obligation to obey the commands of the police officer to stop.

"We note that the evidence clearly establishes that the defendant disregarded and walked away from a law enforcement officer who had adequately identified himself.  Because the defendant's argument focuses on whether the defendant had a duty to stop, we view his claim as alleging insufficient evidence to prove the element "after the officer has ... ordered the person to stop," wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

"The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the right of the people to be secure in their persons against unreasonable search and seizure shall not be violated...At minimum, the government's seizure of a citizen must rest on specific, articulable facts that lead an officer to reasonably suspect that criminal activity is afoot."

Later in the decision, Justice Dickson writes, "A person's well-established freedom to walk about is thus violated when that person is subjected to a statute that makes it a criminal offense to decline a police order to stop.  To hold that a citizen may be criminally prosecuted for fleeing after being ordered to stop by a law enforcement officer lacking reasonable suspicion or probable cause to command such an involuntary detention would undermine longstanding search and seizure precedent that establishes the principle that an individual has a right to ignore police and go about his business."

"We agree with the State that the language of the Resisting Law Enforcement statute, on its face, does not expressly require that the order to stop by lawful.  Literally applied, however, the 'after the officer has ... ordered the person to stop' element of the statute, if applied in the absence of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, constitutes an unreasonable detention and impairs a citizen's 'right to ignore the police and go about his business..."

We hope that police department leaders throughout Indiana will educate all Indiana police officers about this ruling so that fundamental rights of unsuspecting citizens will no longer be violated, because of a perceived conflict between a mere statute of the state and that of the United States constitution.

This apparent conflict occurs too often throughout our state.

You can read the entire ruling at this link.