|This is Erin Gardner.|
|This is the prosecutor.|
Based on the evidence, we believe that a few public officials and one bully cop are deserving of public reprimand and other appropriate sanctions.
Earlier this year the LCJ published a story about Gardner's unwarranted brush with the law after she questioned the actions of LPD Officer Jeffrey Webb in demanding to see her driver's license even though she was merely a backseat passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for a minor traffic infraction.
Gardner was originally charged with resisting arrest, failure to properly identify herself, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
The resisting arrest charge was recently dropped after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that passive resistance does not constitute resisting arrest.
The dash cam video clearly shows that Gardner was passive when Officer Webb violently yanked the small-framed woman from the backseat of the vehicle even though she reportedly verbally provided him with both her social security and driver's license numbers.
Gardner also insists that she was wearing a seatbelt, and that there is no way the officer could have seen whether or not she was wearing it since it was dark prior to the car being stopped. Gardner believes that Webb made up the phony allegation after realizing he had no probable cause to arrest her.
Gardner subsequently received medical treatment for what she says was a shoulder injury due to the aggressive conduct by the officer. Gardner also suffers from Aplastic Anemia, a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, which has been a hindrance in defending herself against what she says are bogus charges.
In addition, after Gardner persisted in demanding a jury trial after being offered multiple plea deals, the prosecutor retaliated by adding a new charge of possession of paraphernalia.
Prosecutors have claimed that Gardner had a grinder in her possession at the time of her alleged unlawful arrest; however, Gardner says she can prove that it was not a grinder. She says the empty container was merely a pollen collector and there is no grinding mechanism present.
After Gardner was offered a subsequent plea deal and refused, prosecutors asked Judge Les Meade to upgrade her Possession of Paraphernalia charge from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. Gardner says that every time she invokes her right to a jury trial and rejects a plea deal, the prosecutor responds maliciously by adding new charges or upgrading existing ones.
On July 18, 2014, during a pre-trial conference, Tippecanoe County Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck demanded that Gardner be prepared for a jury trial on July 30th even though she did not have access to critical evidence.
The state had deposed two witnesses a week earlier without giving Gardner ample notification so she could make arrangements to be present. In fact, Gardner says she only received a two-day advance notice in the mail of the last minute depositions; however, since she was on vacation during that time, she did not receive the letter until the day after the depositions were taken.
"I had no opportunity to ask questions or to object to anything," stated Gardner. "No one should be forced to trial without having access to witnesses and evidence."
Based on this and other points of contention, Gardner objected to the state's demands that the trial proceed on July 30th. Gardner stated that she did not even have copies of the depositions and could not be prepared for trial without it.
Judge Les Meade reportedly asked why Gardner couldn't "just ask her friends what they said." Gardner was dumbfounded by this incredible statement from a judge, who ordered that the trial proceed even though Gardner was clearly unprepared.
Gardner believes she has been maliciously pressured by the state and the court into agreeing to a plea deal.
"What courtroom is run on heresay?" asked Gardner. "I'm not a lawyer and even I know better than that!."
"My attorney would need real facts in front of him to properly defend me," Gardner continued.
In an incredible development, Gardner says her public defender showed up at her house a day prior to the trial stating that the judge had a change of heart about Gardner's request for a continuance and wanted to meet with all parties. After discussing the matter, Meade granted Gardner the continuance so that she could access the state's evidence.
"I'm grateful that the judge granted the continuance," stated Gardner. "Otherwise, it would have been grossly unfair."
Gardner says that one piece of evidence she received after the change-of-heart-ruling proves that Officer Webb lied about what happened.
She says that in the police report Webb claims that he arrested her for failure to identify herself; however, in the medical report it clearly states that Webb told hospital personnel that Gardner gave him her social security number and her driver's license number prior to being arrested. Webb's police report states that Gardner gave him "nonsensical numbers," which contradicts what he reportedly told hospital personnel before he submitted his written report.
"I gave him both my social security number and my driver's license number," stated Gardner.
Gardner says that one of the eye-witness passengers also substantiated that Gardner offered this information prior to being violently yanked from the vehicle.
The medical report also reportedly stated that Webb told hospital personnel that Gardner "had weed under her arm;" however, this was clearly a false statement based on the evidence. This statement also contradicts what Webb wrote in his report.
Officer Webb's statements are clearly contradictory, especially considering the fact that the medical report states that Gardner tested negative for alcohol and drug use.
Prosecutor Starbuck Wants Jury Nullifcation Banned From Courtroom
|Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck|
They also asked that Gardner not be allowed to mention anything about the state's changes to any of the charges against her or the timing of their actions.
[Why not, Ms. Starbuck? Would that show your malicious motivations against an innocent woman?]
Among a list of eleven items in the motion, prosecutors include a request that there be made no mention of Webb's alleged "excessive amount of force...in the removal of Defendant from the vehicle."
In addition, they want no mention of "any past, pending, or future civil litigation against the Lafayette Police Department or officers employed by the Lafayette Police Department."
"How could you have a fair trial with all of those conditions," questioned Gardner.
Gardner's Indianapolis attorneys have stated they believe Gardner's arrest was invalid due to the initial violation of her constitutional rights, so all subsequent charges are invalid. They believe Gardner is being punished for exercising her right to a jury trial with malicious charges being added every time she turns down a plea offer.
The latest plea offer reportedly included a diversion with all charges dropped, unsupervised probation for six months, and a $300 fine.
So, we must ask the obvious questions. If there are no criminal charges why would punishment be demanded? And why would prosecutors pursue such a lame case to the point of wasting tax dollars on expensive witness depositions for an alleged petty crime with minor consequences?
This type of abuse of power is what angers taxpayers and liberty-loving citizens, especially when there are reports of felony offenses being overlooked by prosecutors because of personal connections to alleged criminals or relatives of alleged criminals.
Wouldn't time and money be better spent on real crime, such as murders, robberies, and rapes that are occurring in the Lafayette area in record numbers due to the influx of gang members from Chicago and Indianapolis?
And who can take a deputy prosecutor like Jackie Starbuck seriously when she posts unflattering photos of herself drinking from a beer bong on Facebook. Shouldn't she be a better example? The buck stops with you, Mr. Harrington!
The taxpayers of Tippecanoe County deserve much better. Justice demands that all charges against Erin Gardner be dropped. Stop the witch hunt now and check your egos at the door.