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January 24, 2014

Second inmate spends extra time in Clark County jail

Jason Ray O'Connor sanctioned to 30 days, serves 215

JEFFERSONVILLE — Destiny Hoffman isn’t the only one who spent more time than she should have behind bars.

Jason Ray O’Connor, Jeffersonville, served 215 days in jail after being ordered to serve a 30-day sanction by Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi, according to a motion filed with the court Friday by Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Michaelia Gilbert. O’Connor had been remanded to the Clark County Drug Treatment Court on June 24, 2013, to serve the sanction by Jacobi, who oversees drug court, according to the motion.

“As of Jan. 24, 2014, the defendant has remained in the custody of the Clark County Jail without due process hearing as the Clark County Drug Treatment Court has failed to bring the defendant to court for any hearings regarding the status of his case and has failed to notify the Clark County Jail that the defendant is eligible for release,” Gilbert wrote in the motion.

Gilbert’s motion was to immediately bring O’Connor to court for a hearing regarding the status of his case. But instead, an order was issued from the court to the jail to release O’Connor of his own recognizance, according to online case records.

O’Connor’s release came the same day that the News and Tribune reported on Hoffman’s 154-day stay in the Clark County Jail after being ordered to serve 48 hours by Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi. In both cases, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office was ordered to hold the defendants “until further order from the court.”

Also, it was Gilbert who discovered Hoffman’s extended incarceration when reviewing old case files on Wednesday.

It is unknown whether there are any other cases similar to those of Hoffman and O’Connor, said Jeremy Mull, chief deputy prosecutor.

“I’ve instructed [Gilbert] to review all of the records to determine whether the court has incarcerated anybody else who have served out their sentence,” Mull said. “But I’m not aware of anyone else currently.”

Jacobi did not respond to a request for comment. Jeffersonville Attorney Larry Wilder, who has represented the court in other matters, said that judges are prohibited from making comments about pending cases or ongoing investigations.

Sheriff Danny Rodden said his staff sends a list of the inmates the jail is holding to each court, the prosecutor’s office and the public defender’s office each Monday. Like Mull, he said he was unsure of how many other cases like Hoffman’s and O’Connor’s existed.

“I hope none,” he said.

Rodden said he frequently receives letters from inmates who ask that the status of their cases be reviewed, and he has an officer on staff who regularly assists in that process.

Rodden said he was unsure how much it costs the county to incarcerate an individual inmate per day in the jail, but said that the state pays the county $35 per day, per inmate. He estimated that based on that, the county pays $50 per day, per inmate.

According to online court records, O’Connor was assigned to drug court in March 2013 as part of a plea agreement. He faced the charge of possession of a controlled substance, a class D felony.

A June 2013 hearing was held after O’Connor was terminated from Turning Point Center, a halfway house.

A message left for Brittany Blau, who represented O’Connor during the plea process, was not returned by press time.

Gilbert’s discovery adds to the controversy surrounding Jacobi and the drug treatment program. The Clark County prosecutor’s office is expected to determine in the near future if criminal charges are appropriate for two drug court program employees, Susan Knoebel and Jeremy Snelling, who were placed on unpaid leave Jan. 7 and continue to be on suspensions.

County Attorney Jacob Elder said he was concerned about cases like those of O’Connor and Hoffman potentially exposing the county to liability.

“If a person’s rights were violated and they weren’t provided due process, then absolutely, I’m concerned about any potential liability or lawsuits that may affect the county,” Elder said. “We are afforded due process by virtue of the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, and they’re amendments for a reason. They need to be followed.”

REQUEST DENIED

The News and Tribune filed an open records request Friday with Circuit Court No. 2.

The request was for “a list of all cases pending in Circuit Court No. 2, including the case numbers, the names of the defendants, the charges those defendants face and the dates those charges were filed,” along with a similar list of all pending jury trials within the court.

Jacobi’s response came less than three hours later.

“In response to your letter of today’s date, your request for a list of cases pending in Circuit Court No. 2 and a list of all cases awaiting jury trial is denied,” Jacobi wrote. “The request is over burdensome and the records are available to you via Odyssey public access or by coming into the court office to review the public files.”

 

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