Sunday, March 30, 2014

Purdue University Students Challenge Dean of Students Over Free Speech in Stand-Off With Campus Police

RELATED VIDEO: Don't Cage My Speech! A student at the University of Cincinnati sued and the federal court overturned a policy that Purdue continues to try to enforce even though it was ruled unconstitutional.

A handful of Purdue University Students schooled the Dean of Students and three university police officers on the Constitution last week after their first amendment rights were reportedly threatened.

At issue was a display sponsored by the Purdue Chapter of Students for Life entitled, "What Has Roe Done For Us."  Students had reserved space near the Class of 1950 memorial for the display; however, it had not been pre-approved by the Dean of Students. 

University policy states that students must complete an Event Planning Form two weeks in advance and that all events and displays are subject to approval; however, students had only learned that the national organizaiton would be in the area to provide the display a week earlier so were not able to provide two weeks notice.
Purdue students were ordered to remove this display.

Shortly after the students had arrived a campus police officer informed them that someone had complained about their display and since they did not have pre-approval from they Dean of Students they would have to leave.  The students refused and the officer left the scene.

The students phoned attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom organization for advice and were told they had every right to display their placards and that the pre-approval policy was unconstitutional and an infrigement on their first amendment rights to free speech.

A second officer arrived on the scene and reiterated the order the leave, only this time they were threatened with confiscation of the display.  Students remained firm and told the officer they had spoken with the national organization's attorney who advised them they were within their constitutional rights to continue with what they were doing. 

The Dean of Students soon arrived on the scene as did a third campus police officer.  Once again they were ordered to disband.  Students offered to have their attorney speak with them about the matter; however, they reportedly said they were not interested in doing so.  After consulting with university officials for about an hour, the officer told the students to have a nice day and left them alone; however, students do not believe the matter of free speech is over.
"As long as there is an unconstitutional policy in place, the matter will not be resolved," said one student who supported the display.
The students from the Students for Life organization have not been the first ones from Purdue to complain about the policy. 

Last fall, in an article entitled, Purdue's Policies Supress Free Speech, from The Purdue Review the writer lamented the fact that Purdue continues to require students to conduct their speech in a controversial "Free Speech Zone" after receiving prior approval even after federal courts have ruled this practice to be unconstitutional.
The writer stated that "arguably the most outrageous policy on the books creates a Free Speech Zone here on campus," which limits students free speech rights to a small area south of the flagpole on Purdue Memorial Mall.
"While this may seem like an innocent attempt to keep order, by creating a zone in which students are allowed to express themselves freely the university grants itself the power to control where students exercise their First Amendment rights," the author from The Review wrote.
"Contrasingly, the First Amendment states that there shall be no law which minimizes one's right to free speech," the writer continued.
This issue was  addressed in federal court after students from the University of Cincinnati sued the public university for violating their right to gather signatures on campus for a time-sensitive, statewide right-to-work ballot initiative.  The university had a similar policy as that of Purdue's wherein students were required to get prior approval before holding an event.  Both universities also required that students conduct their speech in designated areas.

The federal court struck down the Unviersity of Cincinnati's unconstitutional policy and declared that the free speech rights of the students had been violated.

Because this case received widespread public attention, it is unclear why Purdue has not amended its unconstitutional policy; however, they may soon be forced to do so if they continue to attempt to violate the free speech rights of students. 

A video about the Cincinnati case has gone viral across the nation and is included for our readers' consideration at the beginning of this article.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court Says Police Officer Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to Initiate Traffic Stop

In a 5-0 opinion, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a Putnam County judge's earlier ruling when it handed down a decision today that affects how police officers are allowed to conduct traffic stops when it comes to reasonable suspicion.

The case involved driver, Darrell Keck, who was traveling about 43 mph on a gravel road in Putnam County when Sheriff's Deputy Terry Smith began following him.  Smith witnessed the driver  traveling "down the middle of the roadway" for about a quarter of a mile before he initiated a traffic stop.  The officer also witnessed the driver coming to a full stop before turning left onto a two-way road with no center line.

During the stop, Deputy Smith noticed Keck's eyes were bloodshot and he smelled alcohol on his breath.  He also observed an open case of beer in the front seat with several cans missing.  After Keck admitted drinking three beers that night, Keck conducted three sobriety tests.  Keck failed two of them, so the officer conducted a breath test, which showed a breath-alcohol level of 0.14.  Keck was handcuffed and hauled off to jail.

Keck was charged with two misdemeanors: operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating over the legal limit. 

Keck's attorney immediately asked the court to suppress the evidence against him, stating that no traffic laws were broken that initiated the stop.  The defendant argued that the road was gravel and had large "chuckholes" that made it impossible to drive in the right-hand area of the roadway "without hitting every hole in the road."

The court granted the defendant's motion:
"Judicial Notice of the condition of the County's roads throughout Putnam County.  Because of the poor road conditions, the Court finds it wholly unreasonable to expect motorists in Putnam County to take a perfectly straight course, on the far right side of a roadway riddled with potholes in the absence of oncoming traffic...Evasive action, including possibly driving left-of-center has become a necessity with the current conditions of our County Roads."
That state appealed that ruling and lost, so they took the case to the Supreme Court and the justices unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling stating that the trial court correctly granted Keck's Motion to Suppress.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that "The Fourth Amendment guarantees: The right of the peole to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In its ruling, the Court made the following interesting observations:
"Our jurisprudence reflects two types of police encounters that implicate Fourth Amendment protection:  the investigatory stop and the custodial arrest.  An investigatory stop is generally brief in duration and is constitutionally permissible so long as the enforcement officer 'has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity 'may be afoot.'  The custodial arrest constitutes a greater restriction upon the subject's liberty and requires a commensurately greater justification: probable cause.
The first question we face is whether Deputy Smith had reasonable suspicion to support a brief investigatory stop of Keck's vehicle.  When determining whether an officer had reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop, we consider whether 'the totality of the circumstances' presented 'a particularized and objective basis' for the officer's belief that the subject was engaged in criminal activity.  If an officer observes a driver commit a traffic violation, he has probable cause - and thus also the lesser included reasonable suspicion to stop that driver.  But if the officer stops a driver based on the officer's mistaken belief that the observed conduct constituted an infraction, the officer's suspicion is no longer reasonable, and the stop is therefore unsupported and impermissible...

Evasive action, including possibly driving left-of-center has become a necessity with the current conditions of our County Roads....We must conclude Deputy Smith lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Keck..."

You can read the entire opinion at this link.

Editor's Note:  This is a ruling that Erin Gardner's attorney should take particular note of.


Newsmaker Series: Who is Erin Gardner?

Erin Gardner has made quite a stir in the community, and judging from the hundreds of comments circulating throughout the Facebook community it's obvious that she is fast becoming a folk hero of sorts to those who don't appreciate strong armed police tactics.

There appears to be a lot of pent up anger out there about police brutality and the double standards that have been applied when officers go rogue or make mistakes.

People make mistakes, too, and Erin will be the first to say that she is far from perfect.  On the other hand, it appears from comments made by defenders of the police action in this case that she has been unfairly stereotyped because of past experiences with the legal system.  She believes that may have played a role in the way she has been treated by some police officers.

Erin's first experience with the police several years ago has been brought up by her detractors. It's easy to judge a book by its cover, but there is usually always more in the story itself.

Erin said she had just come home from a heart-wrenching funeral.  She had been crying and was  offered a shot of alcohol as a means to calm her nerves.  She drank the alcohol, but was by no means intoxicated.  A short while later she left the house and began walking to a friend's house, which was two blocks away.

Before she could get there she was stopped by the police and questioned.
"He wanted to know who I was, where I was going, and where I came from," said Erin.  "I answered all of his questions in spite of my grief and through my tears."
Erin said he demanded that she submit to a breathalyzer.  She told him she wasn't doing anything wrong and that she wasn't inclined to submit to the demand.  She was subsequently arrested and charged with public intoxication.  Erin took what she thought was the easy way out at the time and didn't fight the misdemeanor charge.

In retrospect, she realizes that it may have been a mistake since it has been used to unfairly stereotype her as a criminal with a "record."

Because of what happened to Erin on that day several years ago, she did not want to get out of the vehicle last May as she did not wish to risk another bogus public intoxication charge.  She knew she had done nothing wrong in either instance.
If Erin were walking home today in the same situation she would not have been charged, because in 2012 public intoxication laws were drastically loosened to address the overzealous actions of police officers like the one who took Erin to jail even though she was doing nothing wrong and harming no one. 
The impact that these two incidents have had on Erin is hard to measure.  Living in fear and being afraid to go out in the community is the psychological result of dealing with overzealous police officers.  Perhaps some of these officers don't realize that their actions affect people in ways that cause lifelong harm. Or maybe those who exhibit narcissistic behavior  simply don't care.

The damage that it causes is real.  It destroys lives.  It harms the community.  Erin and others want it to stop, which is why she has taken the risk to place herself in the public spotlight where there are plenty of critics and legal sharks.  She has been encouraged by the outpouring of support, though, and believes the cause is worthy of the financial and emotional cost in fighting a corrupt legal system in hopes of preventing this from happening to others.

How many people would go to such lengths to pursue justice for a bogus seat belt violation?  Not many, but Erin Gardner is no ordinary person, which is why many people are asking, "Who is Erin Gardner?"  It was a question this writer was curious about, so I sat down with Erin and asked about her life.  She was gracious enough to answer my questions.

This writer determined that there was certainly something special about Erin shortly after meeting with her for the first time at the Java Roaster in downtown Lafayette, one of Erin's favorite hang-outs, and one of the few places she feels safe after what happened to her last May.

Erin with Nobel Prize winner Dr. James Watson
Erin doesn't go out as much these days, however.  After being ripped from the back seat of her friend's car and slammed to the ground by LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb, she is fearful and has lost faith in those whose job it is to serve and protect.  She suffers from agoraphobia as a result, but is determined to overcome the obstacle.

Erin's ecclectic lifestyle is a testament to the fact that there is nothing ordinary about this capable young woman.  Whether she's participating in a roller derby, studying nuclear medicine, or rubbing elbows with famous people like Nobel Prize winner Dr. James Watson, the man who unlocked DNA mysteries, she remains grounded due to her religious and work ethics.

Erin was raised Catholic; however, she has also attended Evangelical churches.  Although she claims to still be connected to her Christian roots, she eventually turned to Buddhism for religious fulfillment.

Although Erin has accomplished a great deal in 34 years of life, it is her role as a mother that she identifies with the most and receives the greatest joy from.  Erin is the mother of a ten-year-old son.  She is her son's biggest fan and vice versa. 

Erin, a 1997 graduate of Harrison High School, was a member of the National Honor Society.  She was nominated by teachers for the prestigious Continental Math League of which she became a member after receiving high scores in advanced math.

Erin has attended six universities and has earned degrees in sociology and journalism from Penn State.  She is currently enrolled in IUPUI where she is studying Nuclear Medicine.  Erin has consistently made the Dean's List in all of her educational pursuits. 

Erin has held several jobs in her relatively short lifetime, including Americorps and the Salvation Army.

More recently, she owned and operated The Phoenix restaurant in Davenport, Iowa and was featured in a regional magazine for her successes there.  After returning to the Lafayette area for personal reasons a couple of years ago, she has provided consulting services for restaurants, flipped six houses while doing much of the work herself, and she makes a living in Numismatics, or metal trading.

Erin always finds time for volunteering.  She has organized autism walks, opened her home to the less fortunate, invested money for the education of people with great ability but little resources, and counseled high school students in conflict resolution through Americorps in Indianapolis.

"I invest in people," commented Erin, who was quite shy about her philanthropical endeavors."

One of those endeavors was visibly noticeable.  Erin recently cut her long hair as a donation to the Locks of Love charity to be used for cancer patients.

Erin briefly talked about her parents and the impact they had on her life.  Divorced when she was a young child, Erin's mother, Joann Gardner, was forced to make a living for four children, so she and a friend launched the Klein-Braut House in Brookston, Indiana.  Erin remembers working alongside her mother in the family business and credits the experience for the strong work ethic she developed.

Prior to that Joann managed the Farmer's State Bank in Brookston for the Garrotts, who were dear friends of Erin's family.

Tragically, Erin's mother died in a car wreck about ten years ago, which has left a huge void in her life.

Erin's father has also been well-known to the community.  Although he currently lives in the Geist area, he started his career at WLFI-TV18 as a camera man.  Erin recalls growing up in the WLFI studios as she would occasionally accompany her father to work.

Her dad, Ken Gardner, is now known worldwide for negotiating contracts with major television networks for satellite coverage of sporting events such as the World Cup, Olympics, and the Kentucky Derby, just to name a few.  Ken was also one of the founders of Speed TV and IMS productions.  Locally, he was a founder for WLFI Remote Operations.

It was easy for Erin to get off track and talk about her parents' accomplishments rather than her own.  She tries to live a quiet life while pursuing her goals.  One of those goals is to help others find a cure for cancer, which is why she entered into the field of Nuclear Medicine.

Erin Gardner deserves an apology from the officers who accosted her.  She deserves a fair trial.  She deserves to be left alone in peace.  She deserves justice. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lafayette Woman Seeks Jury Trial After Civil Rights Allegedly Violated by LPD Officers; Newly Released Dash Cam Video Validates Claims

[Editor's Note:  A media expert is currently working to enhance the sound quality of this video.  We will update when it is completed and also provide a written transcript of the conversation that occurred.]

The Lafayette Police Department will soon be facing yet another Civil Rights lawsuit says Erin Gardner who is currently interviewing Indianapolis area attorneys to take on the task.  Gardner claims she suffered a dislocated shoulder last May when she was violently yanked from a rear passenger seat and slammed against the concrete street by LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb. 

Police file photo of Gardner receiving medical treatment
According to doctors, Gardner suffered a torn rotator cuff as a result of the alleged excessive force action and continues to receive physical therapy for the injury.

After insisting on receiving medical attention, Gardner was eventually charged with refusal to identify herself, resisting law enforcement, seat belt violation, and possession of marijuana. 

Although the possession charge was dropped, presumably for lack of evidence, Gardner’s version of events are in sharp contrast to the police reports written by Officer Webb and other responding officers, and she continues to suffer from her injuries to this day, physically and emotionally.

Fortunately for Gardner, evidence in the form of a dash cam video was finally relinquished to her recently after making several requests to her attorney for it over the past ten months.  The footage validates many of Gardner’s claims, which she says gives her the confidence she needed to pursue justice.  Before the video surfaced it was merely Gardner’s word against that of local police officers.

“I never dreamed I’d have my own police video,” lamented Gardner.  “It was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever experienced.  I was treated like a criminal without just cause, and I am not a criminal.”

Gardner said she had done the responsible thing that night by calling a friend for a ride after drinking two alcoholic beverages at a local bar on Memorial Day last year.  As her friend was driving past Jefferson High School on South 18th Street shortly before 4 a.m., he noticed a police car following them.  At one point, the driver swerved to the left slightly to avoid hitting a parked vehicle, causing the police officer to pull him over for touching the center line.

After being stopped, Officer Webb began questioning Gardner, a back seat passenger in the vehicle.  Another front seat passenger was handcuffed during the ordeal; however, Gardner says he was never questioned.

The officers mainly focused on Gardner who initially offered the fact that she was a pacifist and did not want any trouble.  When asked for identification, Gardner said that she repeatedly informed the officer that she did not have her driver’s license with her because she was not driving.  Indiana law does not require a passenger to carry a driver’s license or identification, nor does it require a citizen to identify oneself without probable cause; however, Gardner claims the officer kept asking her why she did not have identification with her.

Gardner stated that she repeatedly recited her social security number and driver’s license number as a means to identify herself; however, the officer refused the information and later wrote in a report that she was reciting “nonsensical” numbers to him. 

“He knew the numbers were a means of identification,” said Gardner, who believes the officer was merely trying to cover up for his inappropriate actions after the fact.

Gardner said she repeatedly asked the officer why he was harassing her since she had done nothing wrong.  She also complained about the fact that Officer Ian O’Shields continued to shine a bright light into her face for longer than was necessary. 

Webb reportedly told Gardner that his probable cause for questioning her was that she was not wearing a seatbelt.  Gardner disputes that claim, however, and believes it was merely an excuse to cover-up for violating her civil rights.  She says that the officer could not have known whether or not she had been wearing a seatbelt because it was dark and the car’s windows were tinted when he first stopped her friend who was driving.  By the time Webb approached the vehicle it was at a complete stop.

“You don’t need to have a seat belt fastened when a car is stopped,” said Paul Ogden, an Indianapolis attorney who was asked to review the case.  “That was just a pretext for everything that followed.”

Ogden said that lawyers sometimes refer to these types of charges as “attitude charges.”  He says prosecutors should refuse to file these types of “trumped up charges” that are filed merely as face-saving measures to get the defendant to admit guilt to something that protects the officer from being accused of acting improperly.”

Ogden went on to say that if a police officer does something unlawful and it leads to evidence being uncovered, then that evidence would have to be excluded.  He says if the seat belt violation gets knocked out then everything else Gardner was charged with would follow, and rightly so.
Gardner explained to Webb that she did not want to exit the vehicle and risk a public intoxication charge.  It was at this point that Webb ignored Gardner’s pleas and yanked her arm with such force that her shoulder reportedly ripped out of its socket as she was slammed to the ground near the middle of a busy Lafayette street as cars continued to pass by.  Gardner says that when Webb twisted her arm behind her back it caused her rotator cuff to tear.  Gardner weighs 110 pounds and she estimates Webb to weigh in the 240 pound range.
“I landed on my shoulder and when the officer twisted my arm behind my back, I cried out in pain and told him I was hurt,” stated Gardner.  “He ordered me to stand up and I asked him to please help me up using my right arm, but he didn’t.”
Gardner said the most degrading aspect of the ordeal was the body search conducted in full view of the dash camera as Officer Ian Shields stood right beside her staring as a female officer explored her private parts underneath her clothing.  The officer reportedly found an empty container that tested positive for marijuana residue.
“I was so embarrassed in front of the male cop and did not deserve to be treated in such a degrading manner,” said Gardner.  “And why did the male officer insist on standing so closely watching the entire thing?  I was not resisting.”
Indianapolis attorney Paul Ogden reviewed the video and came to a similar conclusion.
“That officer who yanked that woman out of the car by her arm should be disciplined as well as possibly the male officer who leered at the woman while she was undergoing a body cavity search by the female officer,” commented Ogden.  “He did not need to be there gawking during the search.”
Gardner also takes issue with the fact that her purse was searched without her permission.
            “I was violated in so many ways,” she said.
Gardner says that she is seeking a jury trial and pursuing a civil rights case for two reasons.  First, she wants to clear her name and restore her reputation.  Secondly, after hearing about the death threats that Tim VanderPlaats received from LPD officers, she realized that unless citizens stand up to police brutality it will continue to happen to others, some of whom may not have the resources to fight back.

Editor’s Note:  The two officers that are seen in the video have been involved in other controversial situations.  Officer Webb shot and killed a subject after a high speed chase that ended on South 9th Street.  The suspect reportedly was wielding a knife in a threatening manner.

Has Justice Been Subverted by Unfair Order Issued by Judge Les Meade?

Judge Les Meade
Gardner pled not guilty to what she refers to as “sham charges” and recently invoked her right to a jury trial for which she was given only a month to prepare by Tippecanoe County Judge Les Meade.  Gardner perceived that Meade was irritated with her for not accepting a plea agreement arranged by her local attorney.  She is unsure at this point if she could get a fair trial in Meade’s court due to remarks he made after she asked for a jury trial.

“He asked in a frustrated tone, ‘So you’re telling me that after two written pleas you want to go to jury trial?’” 

When she affirmed the intention, he reportedly told her that he was going to schedule it quickly.  Gardner believes she is being punished by the judge for not accepting a plea agreement and that a quick trial date would severely impede her ability to hire new counsel and prepare a proper defense. 

Gardner stated that she was advised by her attorney to plead guilty to not wearing a seatbelt per a plea agreement that was made with the prosecutor; however, after giving it much thought, she could not in good conscience accept the plea since she says she was wearing a seatbelt and is always “religious about [wearing a seatbelt].”  Gardner also claimed that the driver that night never allows anyone to ride in his vehicle unless they are buckled up.  She says that it would violate her Buddhist religious beliefs to plead guilty to a crime she did not commit.
“I’m afraid our justice system is corrupt,” said Gardner.  “I did not realize the scales of justice had been turned into Let’s Make a Deal.”
Gardner stated that she just recently received the dash cam video of the incident after making several requests.  She also believes some of the video was edited, which raises further questions that she'd like to have time to explore.  Gardner says she intends to gather further evidence to offer at trial, including possible depositions of a few of the witnesses, such as the driver, whom Gardner believes was not charged in exchange for his forced cooperation in agreeing to alleged false statements Officer Webb made against her.

Gardner says that she has watched the video several times and shakes each time she views the footage and the slam to the pavement that caused her shoulder injury.  The ordeal has also caused significant emotional harm to Gardner who now suffers from agoraphobia.  She has since hired a driver and a bodyguard, although she does not venture out nearly as often as she did prior to this happening to her.
“I would never treat a human that way, ever, not a child, not an animal, not anything, not even my laundry,” said Gardner.
Gardner, who describes herself as a pacifist, said she was dumbfounded when she was targeted by the police because she had done nothing wrong and there was simply no probable cause to justify the officer’s actions.  She said she was in a state of shock throughout the entire ordeal.  

Gardner admits that she was provoked to anger and cursed at the officers in frustration, which she now regrets; however, says the entire ordeal was unnecessary because she was simply minding her own business and not causing any problems while sitting as a passenger in the back seat of her friend’s car.   Gardner says they just didn't like it when she began asserting her rights and questioning their conduct.

The video shows the officer referring to a seat belt violation prior to him jerking her by the arm in a rough manner and slamming her against the street pavement. 

Gardner also cites a recorded conversation that she recently obtained as evidence that Webb was allegedly attempting to cover his misdeeds.  She believes the audio conversation clearly shows coercion and intimidation on his part.  She says that Officer Webb conducted an inappropriate interrogation-style interview of the driver who also felt intimidated by the encounter.
“My friend was intimidated into giving a false statement to the police officer, because he didn’t want to go to jail,” said Gardner.  “He was terrified, and he agreed to statements that he had no knowledge of, because he could not have witnessed some of what happened to me.”
Gardner claims that LPD officers continue to harass her.
“They drive by a local coffee shop and laugh and wave when they see me,” she claims.

Monday, March 17, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Lawsuit Against Rape Cover-Up Allowed to Continue Against City of Frankfort and Police Officials

The victim of an alleged rape will have her day in court and a subsequent cover-up will not be swept under the rug despite the best efforts of police and city officials from Frankfort, Indiana.  That's according to Federal Judge Sara Evans Barker in her March 14, 2014 ruling to a Motion to Dismiss by of the City of Frankfort.

Frankfort officials sued by Alleged Sexual Assault Victim
Judge Evans Barker ruled, in part:
"Count II of the lawsuit - Equal protection (“class of one” theory). The motions (to dismiss) are DENIED with respect to Defendants Robert Hession, Jason Albaugh, and Troy Bacon, and GRANTED with respect to all other defendants. Count II with respect to Defendants City of Frankfort, Frankfort Police Department, Rodney Smith, Eli Smith, Trey Crockett, Dakota Beard, Autumn Dick, Chris McBarnes, and Caira Bolen is dismissed WITH PREJUDICE."
The allegations in the lawsuit are quite shocking, and thankfully Gary Snyder of Indiana Talks has kept the story alive; otherwise, the injustices this teenager has suffered would likely be long forgotten.

What's more shocking is that the police officers involved in the alleged cover-up and civil rights violations are still employed by the City of Frankfort.  In fact, they have yet to be punished for their misdeeds.  Some Frankfort residents are calling for federal prosecutors to intervene, and rightfully so when you consider what has happened in this small community located 30 miles east of Lafayette.

The facts as laid out by Judge Evans Barker are as follows:

"Plaintiff was a resident of Frankfort, Indiana, at the time of the incidents recounted in the Complaint...She claims, broadly speaking, that she was victimized in two ways: first, when she suffered a sexual assault, and second when Frankfort city and police officials failed to respond adequately, allegedly conspiring with some of the perpetrators of the original sexual assault to mishandle the investigation, avoid charging any suspects, mistreat Plaintiff personally, and leave her feeling vulnerable to further assaults."

The Sexual Assault

"Plaintiff alleges that, while at the home of Defendant Caira Bolen in Frankfort, she was given 8 capsules of Klonopin, an anti-seizure medication that she had never taken before.  She took the pills, which have a powerful depressant effect in large doses, in order to "feel better..."

Plaintiff and Bolen then went to a party at 552 East Washington Street, Frankfort, a house owned by Defendant Eli Smith...After she entered the house, Defendants Dakota Beard and Trey Crockett, fellow party-goers, asked her to expose herself, and she refused.  Shortly thereafter, Rodney Smith, the son of Eli Smith, who is nicknamed "Boomer," offered her an "unknown substance" to drink; after drinking it, Plaintiff lost consciousness...

When Plaintiff regained consciousness, Defendants Beard, Eli Smith, Bolen, and Crockett were restraining her whjile Beard, Eli Smith, and Crockett sexually assaulted her.  Plaintiff asserts that her ability to resist the assault -- or to remember it in detail -- was hampered by the lingering effects of the Klonopin pills.  When she finally did escape their clutches as well as the party, Plaintiff succeeded in contacting her father for help; he in turn called 911 and requested emergency assistance...Plaintiff was transported to the hospital in Frankfort."

The Investigation and Aftermath

"The Frankfort Police Department dispatched Defendant Detective Robert Hession to the hospital to interview Plaintiff about the alleged assault.  According to Plaintiff, he turned off the customary tape recording of the interview well before it was over, and began to behave in a confrontational, inappropriate manner while off the record.  Hession allegedly told Plaintiff that the rape was her fault because she had dressed in a "provocative manner"; he further insinuated that she was "crying rape" because of race (some of her assailants were black, and Plaintiff is white)...

Hospital staff performed rape kit examinations on Plaintiff, and a nurse told her that she had suffered bruising and other injuries that usually occur only in instances of sexual assault...After Plaintiff's release from the hospital, Defendant Hession requested a second interview with her.  Plaintiff asked to have her hospital "Victim's Advocate" present at any new interview with Hession; Hession refused to accede to this request and did not perform a follow-up interview...
Plaintiff and her family grew concerned about the slow progress of the Frankfort Police Department's investigation and expressed concerns to both the Mayor of Frankfort, Defendant Chris McBarnes, and the Frankfort Police Chief, Defendant Tony Bacon.  More specifically, Plaintiff's father communicated to Bacon that both Hession and Defendant Jason Albaugh, a Frankfort Police Detective assigned to the matter, had personal contacts with the sexual assault suspects that had potentially compromised the integrity of the investigation...
According to Plaintiff, Albaugh's step-daughter, Defendant Autumn Dick, was in a long-term romantic relationship with Rodney "Boomer" Smith.  Plaintiff also alleges that Hession had maintained inappropriate personal relationships with Beard, "Boomer" Smith, and Crockett...

Police Chief Bacon responded to these concerns by agreeing with Plaintiff's family that she should have no further contact with Hession; he demurred from promising any concrete action regarding the investigation, stating that "he knew nothing about the detective side of the case, because he had never been a detective before."

When told of Hession's behavior and the possible conflicts of interest among the officers, Mayor McBarnes promised Plaintiff's father that the officers would be "punished," agreeing that the case had been mishandled...

Despite these assurances from the Mayor and the Police Chief, however, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants willfully impeded progress in the investigation of her assault and the prosecution of its perpetrators.  Contrary to Mayor McBarnes's assurances, the rape kit from the hospital was not delivered to the Indiana State Police crime lab until five weeks after the examination -- Plaintiff contends that this lapse greatly exceeds the standard practice in rape investigations...

The Frankfort Police never obtained a warrant to search the house at which the assault allegedly took place, nor did they ever collect any physical evidence from the site.  A tape recording of Defendant Crockett, one of the alleged assailants, admitting that Plaintiff was incapacitated and thus unable to consent to sexual intercourse on the night of the assault, which recording Plaintiff's father forwarded to Hession, was never submitted as evidence to the prosecutor's office...Neither Hession nor Albaugh was removed from his position heading the investigation, and, as of the filing of Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint, the Frankfort Police had brought no charges against any of the alleged assailants...

Plaintiff claims that the misconduct of Hession, Albaugh, Bacon, McBarnes, the Frankfort Police Department, and the City of Frankfort (collectively, the "Frankfort Defendants") caused her harm that extends beyond the frustration and outrage of witnessing a fruitless investigation that yielded no prosecution for her assault.  She alleges that city and police officials verbally abused her, directing epithets at both her and her family...

According to Plaintiff, the official mishandling of her case propagated to a "blame the victim" attitude that caused her emotional and reputational harm, and led to incidents such as Defendant Caira Bolen's vandalism of her car...

Because the assailants have not been punished, Plaintiff relates that she feels unsafe in her community; she avoided high school graduation because several of the perpetrators would be present, and she changed her plans to attend Vincennes University because defendant Eli Smith is a student there..."

Citizens Forced to File Civil Lawsuits When Justice is Not Blind

Even if this teenager prevails in federal court, justice will remain elusive as long as the perpetrators are not held criminally liable for their actions.   In Lafayette, Tim Vander Plaats was forced to file a civil suit against alleged civil rights violation by Lafayette police officers, because the criminal justice failed him as well.

Justice was not blind in either case.  That's not the way it's supposed to be. Citizens and victims deserve much better.

Let this be another lesson in yet another case of corruption in small town America.  Do not trust the police, and when you're traveling through Lafayette or Frankfort, Indiana, don't forget your video cameras.  You'll need the protection should you have the misfortune of being stopped by the police.  Yes, there are good police officers, but since the bad apples remain part of the force, don't take chances with your safety.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

County Prosecutors Often Illegally Ban Alcohol Consumption As a Condition of Probation

By Paul Ogden

The overcrowding of our prisons and jails is a common problem in the United States, including here in Indianapolis. Just a few years ago, county officials entered into a plan to reduce overcrowding in the Marion County jails, a plan that in 2007 alone cost $5 million. For most communities, the solution to the overcrowding problem is to build more facilities or reduce punishment for certain offenses, particularly drug offenses. During the last legislative session, however, the Indiana General Assembly went the other direction, replacing the one-day-good-time credit for every day served with a requirement that those convicted serve 75% of their sentences.

While there is undoubtedly a need to examine sentencing laws, in particularly as to non-violent offenses, there exists already a law on the books which, if enforced, would help reduce the needless incarceration of offenders.

IC 35-38-2-2.3 provides the conditions of probation than can be imposed on an offender. That statute lists 23 different allowable probation conditions, including the requirement that a person “undergo a laboratory chemical test or series of chemical tests…to detect and confirm the presence of a controlled substance….” Another one is that an offender can be required to “[s]atisfy other conditions reasonably related to the person’s rehabilitation.”
Unlike cocaine, meth, heroin, and prescription drugs, alcohol is not a controlled substance. Indiana courts have said that an alcohol ban as a condition of probation can be upheld only if it is reasonably related to the person’s rehabilitation. (For example, see Carswell v. State, 721 NE 2d 1255, 1264-1265 (Ind. 1999))

For example, a person convicted of drunk driving can probably be required to abstain from using alcohol in a probation agreement. But requiring a shoplifter to not drink a drop of alcohol for one year would not be “reasonably related to the person’s rehabilitation.”

Despite clear statutory guidance and appellate decisions to the contrary, county prosecutors across the state continue to include as a standard provision in probation agreements bans on alcohol use regardless of the underlying offense. Trial judges rarely strike these provisions after the parties sign off on the probation agreement.

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 67% of Americans consume alcohol. It is a safe guess that 2/3 of those on probation also consume alcohol. The reality though is that alcohol leaves the system fairly quickly and offenders who drink do not usually get caught in chemical tests. But probation officers will often ask about an offender’s compliance with the conditions of probation and occasionally offenders are truthful about alcohol use. That offender who tells the probation officer of that beer he had while sitting at home watching the Colts game could well end up serving the rest of his probation, which could be a year or longer, behind bars.

How many people are incarcerated for having violated an alcohol probation condition that legally should not have been part of the agreement? Without examining each and every file in which a person was sentenced to probation, it would be hard to come up with those statistics. However, given the expense of keeping people behind bars and the overcrowding of our jails and prisons, incarcerating even one offender for violating an illegal ban on alcohol use contained in a probation agreement, is one too many.

 About the AuthorPaul K. Ogden has worked in every branch of state government, including as a Deputy Attorney General, a clerk to a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals and on the staff of the Indiana State Senate. He has been an attorney since 1987 and handles both civil and criminal cases. In addition to his having taught political science at IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis, Ogden publishes Ogden on Politics, a blog that discusses national, state and local politics.          

Purdue Students for Life Sponsors Lively Campus Debate

By Cera McCarragher
For The  Lafayette Citizen Journal

Monday night (March, 3rd), Purdue University saw the day out with a lively debate on the issue of abortion. Purdue Students for Life sponsored a formal debate to discuss the question, “Is abortion a human rights injustice?” The affirmative position was taken by Seth Drayer, training director for Created Equal – an organization based in Columbus Ohio. Drayer faced Professor Ralph Webb who took the negative position. Webb hailed from Purdue’s own Brian Lamb School of communication.

Seth Drayer of Created Equal
Drayer opened the debate arguing that 1. The unborn are human and 2. Abortion kills the unborn, thus abortion is a human rights injustice. He conceded that he would lose the debate instantly if Webb could prove that the unborn weren’t human.

Drayer sought to find common ground with the audience by appealing to the audience’s common sense arguing that it is wrong for parents to intentionally kill their children. So the question then became, “Is the preborn human, and does abortion kill her.”

Drayer appealed to the science of embryology and logic to say that the fetus is a distinct, living, whole, human being. He logically reasoned that living organisms sexually reproduce the same kind. Cats reproduce cats. Dogs reproduce dogs. So humans reproduce humans.

After showing that the unborn is indeed human, Drayer explained that abortion does indeed kill her. He showed diagrams of different types of abortions describing the process in detail. He then showed a clip of graphic images and video displaying the result of abortion.

Drayer proceeded to discuss the differences between the unborn and the born arguing that neither the size, level of development, environment, nor degree of dependency are valid reasons to discriminate against and permit injustice to preborn humans. He ended by asking the audience, “are we all created equal?”

In his cross examination, Webb questioned Drayer’s assumption of natural rights asking how we know they exist. The issue of natural rights continued to spatter Webb’s arguments throughout the evening. While Drayer argued that natural rights come from the fact that we are human, such as the right to life and the right to a fair trial, Webb argued that natural rights result from cultural perception. 
Professor Ralph Webb

 In his opening statement, Webb agreed that “Taking the Life of a human being is abhorrent, it’s probably immoral.” He then when on to ask what defines a human being emphasizing that it is not the point of conception and indeed “the point of conception does not exist… Fertilization is a gradual process.” Repeatedly, Webb drew a distinction between personhood and life asserting that there are degrees of life and death and, “Human life is an abstract concept which needs to be argued about and defined.” Webb finished his opening statements by saying, “You don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice.”

 During the cross examination, Drayer pushed Webb to admit that you do have a right not to be killed if you’re a human being. Webb also agreed that all human beings are persons. He defined a person as “some living organism with a sense of consciousness and personness,” making it every clear that this personhood is, “established not at conception.”

Much to the shock of the audience, when asked if sex trafficking could be moral in some cultures, Webb responded affirmatively saying, “that is absolutely right.” He followed up that shocking statement by saying that nothing is true for all people at all times.  

During his closing argument, Webb questioned the reasons behind why women get abortions answering that it’s “NOT as a form of birth control.” He then proceeded to list several reasons why women didn’t want children including, family instability, rape, abuse, too old, or too young. He asked the audience, “are there any circumstances under which you will permit abortion? Can’t we begin to think in terms of situation?” He continued, “we do have rights, but our rights are ethnocentric in nature… you have to interpret rights and the morality of those rights with some concern with the culture from which those rights come and are expressed.” Webb then challenged the audience to come up with a list of universal rights which everyone can agree to asserting that it wasn’t possible. He ended by saying that rights were a decision your culture makes and, “all I ask is that the right to choose remain as significant as the right to life, but not to the right of human life… Permit those who are closest to the matter, the mother, to make that decision.”

 Drayer concluded by arguing that scientists disagree, but that doesn’t that mean there’s no truth. While there is disagreement, there is right and wrong. Those who believe sex trafficking is ok, are wrong. The complexity of this issue lies in the problems facing women, not abortions. He argued that abortion does not solve the root problem saying, “homelessness is not solved by abortion, it does not give a woman a house.” In his final statement, Drayer challenged the audience to ask which side has given better evidence to prove what is the unborn and to look around and ask themselves, are we not all equal in our personhood despite all our differences?

Friday, March 7, 2014

German Homeschoolers Treated Harshly By Obama Administration Compared to Hispanic Illegals

By Pat Henry
For The Lafayette Citizen Journal
Romeike family
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security notified the Romeike family, who had fled Germany and requested asylum in the United States in order to be allowed to home school their children, that they would be allowed to remain in the United States indefinitely. The Romeikes had taken their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear their appeal. This would have allowed the Obama administration to deport this Christian family back to Germany, where they risked forced removal of their children by the German government. The Obama administration fought the Romeike’s request for asylum. 

It was primarily due to the efforts of the Home School Legal Defense Fund and outrage from many people in the U.S. that the Obama Administration backed off on their efforts to deport this family. But, having won in court and establishing a damaging precedent for the future, the Obama administration could afford to be more reasonable in this particular case. Again, it appears that only intense media attention and the potential negative effects of going through with the deportation were the main reasons for restraint on the part of the U.S. government. 

Department of Homeland Security? Yes, these people are likely terrorists, because they represent all the wrong things to the Obama administration and groups targeted as enemies to them: they are white, Christian, European law abiding home schoolers who came in the right way through the front door. This turned out to be their biggest mistake in terms of being able to stay in the U.S. with the least amount of interference and hassle. 

If they sneaked into this country over the southern border and kept their mouths shut, this wouldn’t have happened.  

There are estimated to be 11 million (likely many more) illegal aliens present in the U.S. at this time. Many cities and town are designated as “sanctuary areas”, where the local governments have pledged to break the law and not support the state or federal government in identifying or deporting these illegals. Some of these governmental units even give them driver’s licenses and in-state tuition assistance for their children’s college costs! If you are an Hispanic illegal alien, you will stay here without having to appeal your case all the way to the Supreme Court. You won’t be harassed or bothered; you will be celebrated and embraced. 

This sad state of events certainly reveals a lot about the values and beliefs of the Obama administration. Beware if you are not a member of one or more of their politically favored groups.