News and Tribune

Clark County

March 1, 2014

Tort claim filed for Clark County Drug Court participant

Cody Hendrick seeks $700K for false arrest, incarceration

INDIANAPOLIS — Another possible lawsuit for Clark County officials has surfaced following alleged misconduct of Clark County Drug Treatment Court officials.

Indianapolis attorney Mark Sniderman served notice of tort claim in early February on behalf of James “Cody” Hendrick, a 21-year-old Jeffersonville resident and drug court participant.

“The amount of damages demanded to resolve these tort claims — and only the tort claims — against you at this point in time is the statutory limit of $700,000,” according to the notice.

Sniderman identifies possible defendants, if a trial were to occur, as the Clark County Circuit Court, the Clark County Probation Department, Clark County Commissioners and several state agencies.

He said the above parties have been sent the document, which serves as a notice that a lawsuit may take place if no damages are paid.

Sniderman said he is not anticipating any of the governmental bodies will provide a payment of $700,000 or any other settlement before parties appear in court.

“We expect to probably, and regrettably, have to fight this out in court,” he said. “And, we expect and hope that this drug court is reformed, and it complies with Indiana and federal law.”

A Louisville attorney recently filed a civil complaint in a federal court against Clark County and drug court officials, including Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi, who oversaw the program before it was recently decertified; Susan Knoebel, who was terminated in January as the program’s director; and Jeremy Snelling, a former field officer with the program and bailiff in Jacobi’s court, a position he was suspended from Jan. 6 and has not been reinstated.

Jefferson County, Ind., Prosecutor Chad Lewis recently was appointed to serve as special prosecutor in anticipation of Indiana State Police recommending criminal charges of drug court personnel.

Sniderman’s tort claim is based on an incident on Sept. 23 when Hendrick was taken in handcuffs from his workplace — Rocky’s Sub Pub restaurant in Jeffersonville — by Knoebel and Snelling.

“The tort claims in this matter may therefore consist of negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, failure to train, failure to supervise, assault and battery, among others,” according to the tort claim.

Knoebel and Snelling have both claimed they did not have the authority make arrests, but only to transport a drug court participant to jail after he or she surrenders to the transport.

Sniderman sees it differently, however, claiming Knoebel and Snelling arrested his client.

“People should not be arrested by state actors if they do not have the power to arrest anybody,” Sniderman said. “People are entitled to the due process of law.”

The tort claim asserts Knoebel and Snelling entered Rocky’s to arrest and detain Hendrick.

“Upon arrival, Snelling and Knoebel placed Hendrick in handcuffs, falsely arrested him, and transported him to the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex where Hendrick was wrongfully imprisoned for 32 days before he was released,” according to the tort claim.

Sniderman claims that after Hendrick was released from the jail, Clark County Circuit Court employees failed to withdraw the warrant that had been issued for his Sept. 23 arrest.

“As a result, six days later, Hendrick was detained and arrested by Louisville, Ky., police, and was kept for around 24 hours in the Jefferson County Jail ... ,” the tort claim reads. “All of the foregoing occurred without proper and sufficient legal cause, authority or justification.”

Hendrick’s case was the subject of a private investigation in October 2013, ordered by Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael. The investigation scrutinized Hendrick being taken from Rocky’s by Knoebel and Snelling.

Knoebel and Snelling have claimed innocence in the Sept. 23 incident, and have each said they were following direct orders of Jacobi, who has declined to talk to the media.

According to the Sniderman’s claim, the acts of Knoebel and Snelling “ ... caused physical, emotional and other injuries to Mr. Hendrick. The date of loss began on September 23, 2013, but the loss, effects and damages are ongoing and will extend into the future.”

Sniderman said Hendrick is taking a stand for his rights, by moving forward with the tort claim.

“Cody [Hendrick] has stood up for the Constitution and for himself, and we are here to help him do that,” Sniderman said.

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