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April 20, 2014

Civil lawsuit against Clark County drug program grows

More than 10 Clark County employees targeted in suit

CLARK COUNTY — The number of former and current Clark County Drug Treatment Court participants involved in a class action lawsuit claiming mistreatment by Clark County employees recently doubled.

Louisville attorney Mike Augustus added eight new plaintiffs before submitting, on April 8, the civil complaint, which is an updated version of a compliant filed Feb. 18.

Augustus’ class action suit now has a cast of 16 plaintiffs, 14 of whom have or continue to be drug court participants, and he remains open to accepting even more clients.

Both versions of the complaints have been filed with the Southern District of Indiana federal court in New Albany.

Augustus said he has turned away more potential clients than he is currently representing because he thought their complaints would not hold up in the federal court.

Drug court case manager and Clark County Probation Department employee Josh Seybold was the only addition to the list of more than 10 defendants, which include Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi, who oversaw the drug court program; former drug court director Susan Knoebel; and now-suspended Circuit Court No. 2 bailiff and former drug court field officer Jeremy Snelling.

“Most of my clients had Mr. Seybold as their case manager,” Augustus said, explaining why Seybold and not a second drug court case manager, Iris Rubadue, was named in the lawsuit. “From the people that I have spoken to, not necessarily my clients, did not have a complaint with the way Iris served them as their case manager.”

Augustus filed the civil complaint against those he claims are responsible for the mistreatment of Clark County Drug Treatment Court program participants — which includes allegations of unlawful arrest and incarceration.

He said the majority of the plaintiffs are claiming they were held without due process in the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex following drug court violations.

The issues came to light earlier in the year when a Clark County deputy prosecutor discovered that Destiny Hoffman — who is named in Augustus’ complaint — was being held in Clark County jail nearly five months after she was given a two-day sanction.

His non-drug court clients include one who is claiming mistreatment from the Clark County Probation Department’s work release program.

Augustus said five of his clients claim they were unlawfully arrested by either Snelling, Knoebel, or both. He said the next step in the process will be the defendants filing their responses to the complaint in the federal court.

“Within the next month, the defendants will file their answers,” he said. “I have spoken to the counsel for all the defendants and we have agreed for them to be able to file their answers in that time frame.”

In addition to Seybold, Jacobi, Knoebel and Snelling, the defendants named in the case are: [Clark County Chief Probation Officer] Henry Ford; Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden; [Clark County Community Corrections Work Release Director] Danielle Grissett; [Clark County Community Corrections Executive Director] Stephen Mason ... unknown Clark County Work Release employee[s]; unknown Clark County Circuit Court clerk; and Clark County Board of Commissioners [Rick Stephenson, John Perkins and Jack Coffman].

As the case continues, Augustus said he intends to take depositions from every defendant in the lawsuit.

“Practically speaking, for the next six months or so we will be engaged in discovery and all the sides [will be] finding out as much information as possible,” he said. “I would anticipate appearing before the court on a lot of different matters.”

Augustus said the drug court program under Jacobi’s watch was a broken system.

“My goal, and my clients’ goal, is to have it fixed, and I think that is what is going to happen,” he said.

Augustus said there are several different ways the lawsuit could come to a close. He said a settlement could be provided by the defendants prior to a trial. But, if lawsuit goes to a jury trial, it would be up to jury to decide if any damages should be paid to the defendants.

As previously reported, Augustus has said Jacobi is exempt from the civil complaint.

Augustus will request, however, that a federal judge “declare that what he [Jacobi] has been doing is unconstitutional” through a declamatory judgment.

Augustus said he was motivated to take the civil case because he thinks drug court officials in Clark County have abused their authority and if no one takes a stand, the abuse will continue.

He has said drug court officials have made unlawful arrests and have stripped the program’s participants of their constitutionally protected rights.

Those who have been added to the complaint as plaintiffs are Michael Campbell, Amy Tuttle, Amanda Campbell, Bobby Upton, Shane Bratcher, Justin Lanham, Trentney Rhodes and Joanie Watson.

The original plaintiffs are Destiny Hoffman, Nathan Clifford, Joshua Folley, Jessie Hash, Ashleigh Santiago, James Bennett, Amy Bennett and Lee Spaudling.

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