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January 27, 2014

Charges to be dropped in Clark County jail case; lawsuit moving forward

Destiny Hoffman served 154 days for a 48-hour sentence

JEFFERSONVILLE — Charges against a Jeffersonville woman who spent five months in jail for a 48-hour sentence are expected to be dropped while she moves ahead with filing a civil lawsuit against Clark County for her lengthy incarceration.

Destiny Hoffman, 34, was released from the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex on Thursday, a day after Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Michaelia Gilbert discovered her status as an inmate while reviewing old case files.

Hoffman was a participant in the Clark County Drug Court Treatment Program, and her 154-day incarceration resulted from Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi, who oversees the drug court, issuing a two-day sanction and never notifying jail staff to release her from the facility.

“All charges will be dismissed against Ms. Hoffman. She will have no further requirements to attend drug court or probation. Her cases are, basically, finished,” said Nathan Masingo, Hoffman’s public defender.

Masingo said he expects Hoffman will file a civil complaint that could result in Clark County taxpayers paying for the blunder that kept her behind bars from Aug. 22 to Jan. 23.

“She met with an attorney today,” Masingo said Monday. “She will be suing the [Clark] county civilly for violation of her constitutional rights.”

Masingo explained that Hoffman had made attempts to notify authorities of her extended jail term while behind bars.

“Since her release from incarceration, I was able to speak with her,” Masingo said. “She informed that she wrote letters to Judge Jacobi as well as [a member] of the drug court staff, and she never received a response from either.”

Masingo met with Gilbert and Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull Monday for a pretrial conference to evaluate Hoffman’s case.

It is expected that Gilbert will file a motion Tuesday to dismiss Hoffman’s pending charges. The motion will have to be approved by a judge before the dismissal is official. Mull explained that due to the circumstances of Hoffman’s case, it was appropriate for the Office of the Clark County Prosecutor to recommend a dismissal of her charges.

“With the long amount of time that she served incarcerated, I felt like it was the fair thing to do to give her the benefit of that agreement that she entered into, since she was not given the opportunity to fulfill the obligations and requirements,” Mull said.

Through the successful completion of the drug court program, an individual’s charges prior to entering the program can be dismissed.

Both Masingo and Mull have stated that Hoffman was under the watch of Jacobi and his staff at the time of her incarceration, and his court was the only party responsible for her incarceration.

“I was no longer her attorney while she was in the drug court program,” Masingo said, explaining that pubic defenders withdraw their legal services after offenders enter the drug court program. “However, once her liberty was at stake [incarceration], I should have been reappointed. The judge [Jacobi] should have reappointed the public defender’s office to represent her before sending her to jail. That is part of her constitutional rights that were violated. They violated her due process rights and her right to representation by counsel. They did not reappoint me as her attorney like they should have.”

Mull said it is not up to prosecutors when a drug court program participant is released when they have been jailed for a drug court violation, such as Hoffman, who provided a diluted result during a drug screening.

“Once an individual enters the drug court program, they are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the judge and the drug court employees that the judge has hired,” Mull said. “So, as prosecutors we do not have the authority to incarcerate them, to release them from incarceration, to control any of their behavior. That authority is given to the court staff, under the drug court paradigm.”

Masingo applauded Gilbert’s efforts to identify Hoffman as an inmate jailed unlawfully and for Mull to approve the request to dismiss her charges.

“People think the prosecutor’s job is to put people in jail and that is not necessarily the case. The prosecutor’s job is to do justice, and I think they have done a good job here,” Masingo said. “They have done the right thing by releasing her. They are the kind of people we need as prosecutors.”

Jacobi has not commented on matters pertaining to drug court. A court clerk said he would not comment because of an ongoing investigation.

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