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January 7, 2014

IN-DEPTH LOOK: Clark County court personnel under investigation

Intimidation, abuse of power allegations made

JEFFERSONVILLE — A Clark County judge has ordered an investigation following the incarceration of a participant in the Clark County Drug Treatment program.

That probe by a private investigator is complete but is not being released by Vicki Carmichael, the judge who hired the private investigator, nor Jerry Jacobi, the judge that requested it.

However, the investigation’s invoice points to the arrest of a participant in Clark County’s drug court, which is overseen by Jacobi’s Circuit Court No. 2. The invoice, obtained from the  Clark County Auditor’s Office, reveals the investigation was conducted by Fleeman Investigations Inc., of Sellersburg, for $1,050 for 15 hours billed. The findings of the investigation — paid for by public tax dollars — have been deemed a personnel matter and, therefore, have not been disclosed to the News and Tribune, despite a public information request.

The invoice has the signature of Carmichael, Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 judge.

Carmichael, the presiding circuit court judge in Clark County, recently said she had retained the services of Jack Fleeman after Jacobi had come to her requesting the investigation into his court’s personnel.

Jacobi could have requested the investigation without Carmichael’s approval, but his decision to proceed though her was acceptable procedure, Carmichael said. Jacobi’s circuit court hosts and shares an overview of the drug court program with the Clark County Probation Department.

Carmichael and Jacobi have reviewed the investigation report from Fleeman, but she said she would not discuss the findings. Jacobi repeatedly declined a request for an interview.

While no one has made a confirmation on the record, it appears the investigation Fleeman conducted was into Clark County Drug Treatment Program officials making contact with one of the program’s participants in the community, specifically an incident involving bailiff Jeremy Snelling placing the participant in handcuffs while Susan Knoebel, the drug court’s director, supervised. It is unknown if other incidents involving drug court officials were included in Fleeman’s investigation.

The invoice of Fleeman’s investigation does shed some light on undisclosed findings, as a portion of the invoice reads “Hendrick arrest.”

James Dakota Hendrick, 21, is a Clark County Drug Treatment Court participant who was arrested Sept. 23 after being taken from his place of employment, Rocky’s Sub Pub restaurant in Jeffersonville.

Hendrick said Snelling and Knoebel entered the business about 2:30 p.m. that day, and he was handcuffed by Snelling while inside the restaurant and that he was then put into a county vehicle and taken by the two to the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex where he then began a 32-day jail stint for violating terms of drug court.

Snelling has said he has never placed a drug court participant in handcuffs. Knoebel said she had, at one point, witnessed Snelling put a drug court participant in hand restraints, but declined to say who, when or where.

Without the investigation being disclosed, many questions remain unanswered — including procedures of program officials during field visits with drug court participants — but what is clear is the cozy nature of the ordering of the investigation.

At Jacobi’s request, Carmichael hired Fleeman, a bailiff in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 and husband of one of her court staff members, and the invoice Fleeman provided was approved by Clark County Auditor Monty Snelling, the father of Jeremy Snelling, who is believed to be a subject of the investigation.

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