News and Tribune

February 8, 2014

Prosecutor named in drug court investigation

Madison lawyer to determine if criminal charges will be issued

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

MADISON — A special prosecutor has been appointed to determine if Clark County Drug Court employees will face criminal charges.

Jefferson County, Ind., Prosecutor Chad Lewis accepted the appointment Thursday.

Lewis said he has not received any documentation related to the investigation, which is being conducted by the Indiana State Police.

“I have not received any documentation from the court or reports from law enforcement, at this time,” Lewis said. “I will have to make a determination if the investigation needs more information, and then decide if charges will be issued.”

Lewis said he does not know who the subject[s] of the investigation may be or what possible crimes are being investigated.

Lewis was appointed, after Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart deferred his involvement in the

matter Monday.

While the ISP investigation has not been publicly disclosed, Stewart’s petition to appoint the prosecutor did confirm that troopers “ ... had opened an investigation relating to allegations of abuses by officers and employees of Clark County Circuit Court #2 Drug Court, including allegations which may constitute crimes under Indiana Law.”

Through Stewart’s petition, Clark County Circuit Court No. 3 Judge Joe Weber was designated to appoint a special  prosecutor.

If charges are issued by Lewis, the case is now scheduled to be handled in Weber’s court. It is not likely, however, that Weber will hear the case for several reasons.

First, if charges are issued that are more severe than class D felonies, the case will be moved to another court.

Secondly, Weber said if the case is presented in his court, he will likely defer himself, as Stewart has done.

Weber said he would assume that any Clark County judge would recuse himself or herself from the case because of the close proximity of the Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 employees being investigated by the ISP.

Weber also said that he has very little knowledge of what the ISP has investigated regarding drug court employees.

“I don’t know what or who they may be investigating,” Weber said.

The ISP investigation is separate from a private investigation conducted by Fleeman Investigations Inc., owned by Jack Fleeman, that was ordered by Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael at the request of Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi, who oversees the drug court program.

Fleeman’s report looked into two incidents — the home visit of a drug court participant and the arrest of another participant who was taken from his place of work.

Both incidents involved the then-drug court program director Susan Knoebel, who was terminated Jan. 28 by Jacobi, and Jeremy Snelling, a bailiff in Jacobi’s court and former drug court field officer.

Snelling remains on unpaid suspension, which Jacobi ordered Jan. 7.



IN CIVIL MATTERS

While the ISP has scrutinized possible criminal conduct of drug court program employees, the actions of officials with the program and Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 may result in civil charges related to violations of drug court participants’ constitutional rights.

Louisville attorney Mike Augustus has said he will file a federal civil suit where he will represent, at least, three drug court participants.

Augustus has said drug court officials may be held civilly liable for unlawful arrest and incarceration of the program’s participants. One of Augustus’ clients is drug court participant Destiny Hoffman, who was ordered by Jacobi to be held in the Clark County Jail in 2013. Hoffman spent nearly five months behind bars without being taken before judge or provided legal counsel.

Hoffman was released only after the Office of the Clark County Prosecutor discovered her believed to be unlawful incarceration and ordered a special hearing that led to her release.