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.