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January 7, 2014

IN-DEPTH LOOK: Clark County court personnel under investigation

Intimidation, abuse of power allegations made

(Continued)

JEFFERSONVILLE — DRUG COURT DIRECTOR

Knoebel was interviewed with her attorney Larry Wilder present — Wilder said he expects to be paid with taxpayer dollars — during the conversation in her office Friday, Jan. 3. The two said that Knoebel was not permitted to speak about any specific drug court participant because of state and federal confidentiality rights.

Knoebel did say she has made nearly 100 field visits with drug court participants in the last year. When asked how many of those calls she made with Snelling, Knoebel said, “I can’t give you an exact number of the two of us, specifically, because they [field visits] have been done with more than just the two of us. Case managers have also done those.”

Knoebel said of the field visits she has made in that time, a law enforcement agency was present, “not very often.” She said during field visits that she, Snelling and the drug court’s caseworkers all arm themselves with firearms for safety and wear badges for identification.

“We go out. We verify addresses. We just verify their living arrangements making sure they live in a clean and sober environment,” she said.

Some of the field visits go further than an address verification, however, as some drug court participants, such as Hendrick, have been contacted in the community and taken to jail by drug court staff members.

During the interview, Knoebel was told that Snelling has previously said that he has served “transportation warrants” during field visits to drug court participants who have an active warrant for their arrests, and that Snelling said he will inform the participant that a warrant is active for his or her arrest and then, essentially, will offer that person a ride to the jail, if the participant “surrenders.”

Knoebel said that was a fair characterization of the field visits, clarifying that if a person agrees to come with drug court staff during a field visit, those staff members will transport the person to the Clark County jail for incarceration.

Knoebel said Snelling was assigned to the drug court staff by Jacobi, and when he is in the field he is not working as a bailiff, but under her supervision as a “field officer.”

Early in the interview, Knoebel denied that she or any of her drug court staff had ever drawn a firearm or placed a participant in handcuffs during a field visit.

She later provided clarification: “I did not say I was never with Snelling when someone was placed in handcuffs. You asked if I had ever placed anybody in handcuffs, and I have never placed anybody in handcuffs. And, you asked if I or Snelling had ever arrested anyone, and we have not arrested anyone.”

While Knoebel says she and her staff don’t have arrest authority and haven’t made arrests, she also said, “We have ... Mr. Snelling has placed someone in handcuffs for the voluntary surrender and transportation back to the jail pursuant to the [drug court] handbook, so a warrant can be served once they arrive at the jail.”

She also provided a copy the manual, Indiana Probation Safety and Security. Knoebel said the document is approved by the Indiana Judicial Center and had been adopted by the head of the Clark County Probation Department, Henry Ford.

A introductory caveat of the manual includes the following statement, “This is not an official publication of the Indiana Supreme Court, nor should it be considered an authoritative statement of Indiana Law.”

Knoebel attributed her staff’s authority to handcuff and transport drug court participants, in the safety manual’s Chapter 7, Transportation.

The chapter reads that “probation officers may be required to transport adult or juvenile probations.”

While the document approves of a probation officer transporting participants, it does not say that a field officer, such as Snelling, has the authority. Knoebel said she believes Snelling had the power to place a participant in handcuffs because it took place under her direct supervision.

Knoebel said a person with no law enforcement training can be granted the power to carry a firearm and badge and enter the community and place people in handcuffs before taking them to jail, as long as they are a Clark County employee and receive Jacobi’s approval.

Snelling has denied ever placing a drug court participant in handcuffs or drawing a firearm during a field visit.

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