INDIANAPOLIS — Three Southern Indiana judges involved in an altercation in Indianapolis on May 1 have been suspended for misconduct.
The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that the judges — Andrew Adams, Clark County Circuit Court No. 1; Bradley Jacobs, Clark County Circuit Court No. 2; and Sabrina Bell, Crawford Circuit Court — be suspended for a period without pay, an agreement reached between the court and judges.
They previously were cited by the Indiana Office of Judicial Qualifications for improper conduct — that they had been intoxicated in public, behaving in "an injudicious manner" and getting involved in a verbal fight with two men.
Adams and Jacobs also were cited for engaging in a physical fight with the two men as things escalated.
"[The judges'] actions were not merely embarrassing on a personal level; they discredited the entire judiciary," the ruling reads.
Adams, who was already under suspension, is suspended for 60 days without pay, to be reinstated Jan. 13 at 12:01 a.m. Jacobs and Bell both will be suspended for 30 days, starting Nov. 22 with reinstatement Dec. 23.
"A suspension from office without pay, regardless of duration, is not a minor sanction," according to the ruling. "Even more than a public reprimand, any such suspension is a significant blemish on a sitting judge's reputation."
On Oct. 11, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed misconduct charges against the judges regarding their behavior leading up to the shooting of Adams and Jacobs by a third party, while they were in Indianapolis May 1 for a judicial conference.
Those charges, upheld by the Supreme Court's decision Tuesday, state that the three judges, along with a Clark County magistrate, had been together the night of April 30 leading into May 1, visiting multiple bars and restaurants and drinking throughout the night. Around 3 a.m., they attempted to enter a downtown strip club, which was closed; instead, they went to a nearby White Castle.
Records show the magistrate went inside while Adams, Bell and Jacobs waited outside. When two men, Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser, drove past and one yelled something at the judges, Bell is said to have flipped the two off, which started a verbal-turned-physical fight between the four men.
Records show as the fight escalated, Jacobs had Kaiser pinned to the ground saying "...This is over. Tell me this is over," with a raised fist. At another point, Adams kicked Kaiser in the back before Kaiser shot Adams once, Jacobs twice and fled the scene with Vazquez.
Both judges underwent two emergency surgeries each; Jacobs returned to the bench in July and Adams has been suspended with pay since his criminal indictment in the case in June. At the hospital, Adams' blood-alcohol content registered at .213 in serum (.157 if whole blood was tested) Jacobs' blood-alcohol level in serum was .177, which would have been a .13 had whole blood been tested. Serum is the liquid which remains after blood clots.
Although Judge Bell's blood-alcohol content was not tested, "...she was intoxicated enough that she lacks any memory of the incident," the ruling states.
Initially faced with seven charges, including two felonies, Adams pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in September; Vazquez entered the same plea deal in October. Kaiser, accused of being the shooter, has an upcoming jury trial at 9 a.m. Jan. 13 in Marion Superior Court.
In a statement sent to the News and Tribune earlier today, Adams admitted that he failed to live up to the standards of his role as a judge during the incident, and asked the forgiveness of the community he's served.
"As a judge we are held to a higher standard of conduct and on May 1st, I failed to behave in a manner that my position requires," his statement reads, in part. "I am fully aware of the embarrassment I have brought to the Indiana Judiciary, my family and specifically my community. There is not a minute in the day that I don't think about the significant repercussions my actions have caused. I take full responsibility for my actions as they neither met my expectations or the expectations placed upon me as a judicial officer. I again give my sincere apologies to ... my family and my community. I am thankful this matter has come to a resolution and for all the prayers and support as I continue to recover from this incident. With God's grace, I look forward to returning to work and continuing to serve our community. I hope that the community can accept my sincere apology and remorse for my actions. Thank you."
Attorney Larry Wilder expressed similar sentiments on behalf of Judge Jacobs' during a news conference this afternoon.
"I've been a fortunate person," Wilder read from Jacobs' statement. "I have an amazing wife, three wonderful daughters, a father that loves me unconditionally and a brother that's always stood up for me and beside me. In January 2015 the people of Clark County, Indiana, also blessed me with the privilege to serve in the same court that my father presided over when i was a child. On May 1, 2019, i nearly lost all those things. Today I submit myself to my family and my community and ask forgiveness for my choices on that day. I wholeheartedly apologize for my behavior that evening that has embarrassed the Indiana Supreme Court, my fellow judges and all the members of my chosen profession. I cannot offer any excuse for the events of that evening nor do i attempt to offer any excuses for those choices."
Wilder said it was also important to note that the punishment laid out Tuesday is one each judge has agreed upon with the Indiana Supreme Court.
"So it was not an adversarial process," he said, adding that "all the judges acknowledge that by virtue of being judges, their conduct...exposed them to being punished like they have been punished.
"When you become judge conduct other individuals which may not be considered inappropriate, is now inappropriate for you. With all three of these judges, had they been in any other walk of life, their peers would not be subjecting them to discipline."
A message left for Bell at the Crawford Circuit Court office was not immediately returned by press time; she represented herself in the matter.
In making their decision on punishment for the misconduct, the Supreme Court justices took into account such factors as the judges have no prior disciplinary history and they've accepted responsibility and shown remorse. Also weighed into the decision is that Bell tried to stop the fighting by banging on the White Castle doors and then calling 911 immediately after shots were fired, and that Adams and Jacobs have both been active leaders in the community and have cooperated fully with the investigation.
"The Clark County Judiciary respects the opinion issued by the Indiana Supreme Court related to the judicial disciplinary actions against Judges Andrew Adams and Brad Jacobs," Vicki Carmichael, Clark County presiding judge, said in a statement. "During the time in which Judges Adams and Jacobs serve their suspensions, their courts will continue to remain open to serve the citizens of Clark County. We will fully cooperate with and are ready to assist the senior judges assigned to those courts."
As of Tuesday, Senior Judge Steven Fleece remained on the bench as a Pro Tempore judge in Adams' court. He and Senior Judge Kenneth Lopp were assigned to cover the two Clark County judges' courts immediately following the shooting.