Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gardner Prevails As Prosecutor Moves to Dismiss Charges: Actions of LPD Officer Called Into Question; How Much Did the State Spend To Persecute an Innocent Victim?

Gardner Exonerated!
Good things come to those who wait. After two years and over a dozen trips to the Courthouse, Erin Gardner was exonerated when Tippecanoe County prosecutors dropped all charges against her this week.

It came as no surprise to Gardner, who finally got her day in court last week after her newly-appointed special attorney filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence at her repeated request.

Gardner had been offered several plea deals over the past several months, including one stating that all charges would be dropped in exchange for a simple diversion plea. Gardner said her civil rights were not for sale and continued to press for a jury trial in spite of multiple attempts by prosecutors to add additional charges each time she turned down the offers. 

Gardner also knew there were plenty of prior upper court rulings to support her case.  She had been trying for two years to convince her court-appointed attorneys to file a Motion to Suppress without success.

"They're so programmed to work out plea bargain deals when they should be focused on getting justice for their clients," said Gardner.  "We need to trust the jury system and stop compromising our rights away."

"The higher courts have already ruled on these issues, so why would I plead my rights away when the law is in my favor?" asked Gardner. 

At the hearing, Officer Webb testified on behalf of the state and offered such weak testimony that the judge reportedly appeared to be skeptical of the state’s claims as well as the officer’s lack of judgment.

Judge Persin reportedly questioned the rationale of prosecutors in bringing a minor infraction case to the point of a jury trial. The newly-elected judge also reportedly commented that Gardner was not required to provide identification as a passenger, nor did she do anything wrong by turning away from the officer during the incident after Webb testified that they were motives for her arrest. 

The judge also didn't appear to buy into the rationale that Gardner "might have not been wearing her seatbelt" as a probable cause action.  There was absolutely no proof offered that Gardner was not wearing her seatbelt when officers spotted the vehicle from a distance that she was riding in at around 2 a.m when it was dark.  The judge reportedly questioned the rationale of prosecutors presenting a case based upon the "possibility" she may not have been wearing a seatbelt.

Gardner claims that she is religious about wearing a seatbelt and that she believes Webb came up with the bogus charge after he realized he had violated her civil rights. 

[Watch the dashcam video of Webb violently yanking the 100 pound woman from the backseat of the car while another officer gawks at her as she is being searched in her private area.]


After it became clear that the judge wasn’t buying into the bogus charges, Gardner said Webb suddenly became evasive upon follow-up questioning.

“He suddenly couldn’t remember anything,” said Gardner. “But I will never forget the way he violated my rights and the way he yanked me from the backseat of the car with such force that it caused injury.”

Gardner also recalled the humiliating scene in the emergency room and later learning that Webb had made untrue and slanderous allegations about drug use to hospital staff.  

"I am standing up because I don't want anyone else to go through what I went through," said Gardner.  "It has caused great physical and emotional harm."

“It was obvious that this case was not about justice at all in their minds,” continued Gardner. “It was an example of malicious prosecution simply because I exercised my rights and I wouldn’t cooperate with their corrupt plea bargain system."

Gardner said she would like to research how much the malicious prosecution cost taxpayers. She estimates the cost to be in the thousands of dollars since prosecutors conducted several depositions at taxpayer expense, not to mention the multiple court hearings.  Gardner said she wouldn't be surprised to learn that the cost to taxpayers to be in excess of $30,000 for the infraction case.

“They not only abused their power, they also wasted court time and taxpayer money,” said Gardner. “The public should know how their tax dollars have been misused by public officials on power trips.”

Gardner believes that Prosecutor Pat Harrington should answer for the malicious prosecution from his deputy prosecutors.

"The buck stops at his desk," commented Gardner.  

Gardner said she felt hopeful after Judge Les Meade was voted out of office.  Meade had made several derogatory remarks to Gardner in past hearings, so she did not feel she would get a fair trial under his jurisdiction.

"Judge Persin treated me with respect and he was professional," said Gardner.  "I feel hopeful that justice will be dispensed in his courtroom, and I'm thankful that he put an end to this nightmare."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LPD Seeks Immunity for Violating Civil Rights as Shocking New Details Emerge

Andrew Phillips
The City of Lafayette, LPD, and Officer Jefffrey Webb have asked to be dismissed from a Civil Rights lawsuit filed last year by Andrew Phillips, son of former Tippecanoe County Clerk Linda Phillips, claiming they are entitled to qualified immunity.

Shocking details
have emerged via attachments to the city's motion, including Phillips' initial statement documenting his version of events as well as accompanying police reports filed by Webb and Officer Ron Dombkowski.

Phillips claims his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by Officer Webb after a neighbor made a complaint that a marijuana odor was allegedly emanating from his home on South 29th Street in Lafayette.

If the conduct of Officers Webb and Dombkowski was anywhere near what Phillips alleges, it should concern every citizen in this community.  Based on past history, it is more than likely that every word of Phillips' statement is accurate.  The undisputed fact that officers prevented Phillips from recording the exchange he had with officers speaks volumes.  Why hide their behavior?

At a time when LPD is forced to produce a public relations video because of a growing number of civil rights complaints, these revelations serve to add to the discredit of the scandal-laden agency, which is unfortunate since there are many fine officers on the force who are affected by the misdeeds of fellow officers.  The police chief is an honorable man, but until these repeat violators at the LPD are removed, Chief Flannely will want to keep a bottle of Excedrin in his top drawer.

Perhaps the money would be better spent on educating rogue LPD officers on Constitutional Law.  After reading the details of this case it is painfully obvious that they lack a basic understanding of the Indiana and U.S. Constitutions.  Or, maybe it's that they just don't care, because their egos are bigger than our freedoms.  Maybe it's because they don't like being told no when a citizen decides to invoke a 1st, 4th, or 5th Amendment right.

It seems that too often in America invoking one's God-given rights is seen as being "evasive" or "uncooperative."  Ask any criminal lawyer.  He or she would tell you that it is not wise to give statements to police officers without having a lawyer present, even if you are not guilty.  Many innocent people have gone to jail for giving up the right to remain silent.

Mr. Phillips made a mistake by stepping outside his castle.  For someone who seems to know and understand his rights, his error in "cooperating" when he was under no obligation to do so placed him in an unfortunate situation where he became vulnerable to bully cops who were most unprofessional in their conduct.

At the very least the officers should be reprimanded for violating the Constitution, bullying a citizen with unprofessional remarks, and for swearing in anger.

Many citizens are concerned that the same names continue to surface whenever complaints of abuse and unprofessional police conduct arise.  And while there are those who believe police officers should be given a free pass for their errors and misdeeds, there are many others who believe this type of dangerous thinking should be challenged every time it rears its ugly head.

The end result never justifies the means, especially if constitutional rights are shattered in the process.  Law abiding citizens want criminals prosecuted, but they also want the Constitution protected, revered,and followed.  Our founders shed blood for the Bill of Rights.  They knew how important they were if we are to maintain a free society.  Freedoms should not be taken lightly, and violating freedoms should not be shrugged off in an effort to get a perceived "bad guy."


Mayor Roswarski
It was quite shocking to learn that one of the officers allegedly began swearing about Mayor Tony Roswarski after Phillips' father asked if the treatment of his son was in retaliation for his son running against their boss in a prior mayoral election.

"Roswarski, I hate that fucking Roswarski!" stated one officer, according to Phillips. "That fucking Roswarski didn't give me the raise I wanted.  In fact, I wish he (pointing at Andrew) had beaten that son-of-a-bitch Roswarski, because if he had won I would have probably gotten the fucking raise."

Well, sir, let me be the first to say that you don't deserve a raise.  You deserve to have your mouth washed out with soap before you are fired!

Van Phillips, father of Andrew, asked a very good question after witnessing this tirade.

"On Wednesday a week or so from now I'm signed up to start taking the Lafayette Civilian Police Academy," stated Van Phillips.  "Is this an example of the type of behavior I'm going to watch when I do the ride-a-longs?"

No, Van, this is the type of behavior the LPD does their best to sweep under the rug.  Fortunately, more people like Andrew Phillips, Erin Gardner, and Mark Bowers are willing to shed light on a growing problem.

Sunlight truly is the best disinfectant.

Andrew Phillips' Statement:

Click on to enlarge.  (Warning: You may want to sit down while reading.)

LPD Police Reports  from Jeffery Webb & Ron Dombkowski

Click on to enlarge.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Public Access Counselor takes West Lafayette School Corp. to the woodshed

Hat tip to the Indiana Law Blog for reporting on this issue of the West Lafayette School Corporation's denial of public records. 

The letter was written in response to a complaint made by Zachary Baiel of West Lafayette and copied to school attorney, Robert Reiling.

Here are a few quotes from the letter as noted at The Indiana Law Blog:

At the outset, I encourage the WLSC to take note of the General Assembly's words in Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1: "The public policy of the APRA states that "(p)roviding persons with information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part ofthe routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information."

I emphasize this language as the WLSC appears to lament the responsibility of being a steward of such information. As representative civil servants, public employees have the affirmative duty to respond to public records requests regardless of the volume of inquiries they receive. It should be integrated in their duties. This is not to say they need to neglect other responsibilities in the regular discharge of their business, however, it should be part of their routine duties.

The West Lafayette School Corporation is a public agency for the purposes of the APRA. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-2(n)(I). Accordingly, any person has the right to inspect and copy WLSC's public records during regular business hours unless the records are protected from disclosure as confidential or otherwise exempt under the APRA. See Ind. Code § 5-14- 3-3(a).

By itself, a recording of an open meeting should not be subject to redactions. When a properly noticed meeting attended by the public is conducted, anyone has the opportunity to observe and record. See generally, Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5 et. al.

Therefore, if confidential subject matter is discussed, it has already been disclosed and loses its confidential or discretionary status.  That being said, a governing body does not have to record its meetings. Only minutes and/or memoranda are required to be kept. However, if a governing body does record a meeting, the recording becomes public record subject to inspection and copying.

WLSC has not identified why or how their recording technology is so limited that it cannot reasonably isolate the meeting in question and duplicate it. I am familiar with recording technology used by public agencies statewide and have not encountered a system which incurs $75-$100 to generate a copy.  For example, Indiana courts often use a proprietary system to record proceedings.

While the file format of the recording is unique to the judiciary, the courts can isolate the proceeding easily by use of time code and convert the file to a universally recognized file format with very little cost. I have difficulty accepting the WLSC's system is so advanced it could not undertake a similar measure cost-effectively.  By the tone of WLSC's response and the amount charged, one can reasonably infer the fee set to copy a recording of an open board meeting was meant to frustrate access based upon your history as a repeat requester.

The contents of the recording of the open meeting should be provided to you without redactions. Costs should be reexamined and limited to isolating the entirety ofthe open meeting and, if a duplicate is requested, the physical medium upon which it is copied.

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.


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!