Sabrina Bell

SOUTHERN INDIANA — Three Southern Indiana judges are facing disciplinary charges following an investigation by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications into a May 1 incident in Indianapolis.

Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Brad Jacobs, along with Crawford County Judge Sabrina Bell, all are charged with multiple counts of misconduct related to their behavior while in Indianapolis at a judicial conference May 1 — an incident which led to a physical altercation and ultimately the shooting of Adams and Jacobs by a third party, court records show.

The Justices of the Supreme Court have final say to determine what, if any, misconduct occurred, according to a news release issued Friday by the judicial commission. The judges have 20 days to respond to the allegations.

The court may dismiss the charges, rule on a disciplinary agreement between the commission and each judge, appoint a panel of judges to serve in a public hearing, impose a fine or impose sanctions. Discipline could include anything from a reprimand to a suspension from the bench or a permanent ban on being a judge in Indiana.

Judges Jacobs and Bell are expected to remain on the bench unless the Supreme Court finds there was misconduct and rules that removal is warranted. Judge Adams has been suspended since June 28 when criminal charges were filed in the case.

Adams is charged with three counts of misconduct; Bell and Jacobs each have two counts. The charges are alleged violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires them to "act in a manner at all times that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary; to not engage in extrajudicial activity that undermines a judge’s integrity; and to comply with the law," the news release states.

Adams and two other suspects — Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser — were charged in June with felonies, including battery related to the incident; Adams pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the case in September.

Clark County presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael said in a text message Friday that the Clark County judiciary "understands, appreciates and respects the process of the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission and the authority of the Supreme Court," she said. Carmichael deferred comment on the specific case to either the Supreme Court or the judges' private attorneys, and added that "the Clark County Judiciary remains committed to ensuring the business of the Clark Circuit Courts continues for the benefit of those we serve."

Court records filed Friday show that all three judges were in Indianapolis for the Spring Judicial Conference, conducted May 1-3. Around 10 p.m. April 30, Adams met with Bell, Clark County Magistrate William Dawkins and other judicial officers at the Claddagh Irish Pub. Around midnight, the three went to Brothers Bar & Grill, where Judge Jacobs met them around 12:30 a.m.

Court records state that at 3 a.m., the four walked to The Red Garter Gentleman's Club, which was closed. They instead headed to the nearby White Castle, arriving about 3:15 a.m.

Magistrate Dawkins went inside the restaurant while judges Adams, Bell and Jacobs waited outside.

Records show that a few minutes later, an SUV pulled into the parking lot, driven by Alfredo Vazquez with Brandon Kaiser as a passenger. One of the two yelled something out the window, which prompted Judge Bell to give them the middle finger.

The two parked and approached the group, where a "heated verbal altercation occurred between the judges' group and Vazquez and Kaiser, with all participants yelling (including using profanity) and making dismissive, mocking or insolent gestures toward the other group," court records show.

Following a verbal exchange between Vazquez and Bell, Judges Adams and Jacobs started toward the two other men, with Adams and Vazquez hitting and kicking each other, and Jacobs and Kaiser mostly wrestling on the ground.

At one point, court records say, Adams kicked Kaiser in the back; Kaiser then pulled a gun, shot Adams in the stomach area and Jacobs twice in the chest before he and Vazquez fled the scene.

Both judges were hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery; Jacobs returned to the bench in July after his recovery. Senior Judge Steven Fleece is currently serving as Pro Tempore Judge in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 in Adams' absence.

Jacobs, Adams and Bell face a charge for being intoxicated. Adams' serum blood tested at .213 (.157 if whole blood was tested) when he arrived at the hospital. Jacobs' blood serum level was .177, which would have been a .13 had whole blood been tested. Serum is the liquid which remains after blood clots.

No toxicology report is listed for Bell in the charging document; however, it states that "Judge Bell was intoxicated" at the time the group was at White Castle.

The three also are facing a charge of engaging in a verbal argument with the two other men. The charge states that they "behaved in an injudicious manner that reflected poorly on the judiciary," and that they are required under the Code of Judicial Conduct to "act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."

Adams and Jacobs also are charged with fighting, and Adams' third charge is related to his criminal misdemeanor charge for battery, an alleged violation of the Code "which requires a judge to respect and comply with the law," it reads.

When asked later by investigators, Bell said she was afraid she might have said something to incite the argument that turned physical.

“[We’re] all very good friends and they’re very protective of me," Bell said, according to court records. "And I don’t know, and I’m afraid that I said something to those two strange men at first, and then they said something back to me. And then I said something and then those two went to defend me.

“I’m not denying that I said something or egged it on…because I drink…I mean I fully acknowledge that I drink and get mouthy, and I’m fiery and I’m feisty, but if I would have ever thought for a second that they were gonna fight or that that guy had a gun on him, I would never, never….”

A message left for Bell at the Crawford Circuit Court office Friday was not immediately returned by press time.

Grand juries indicted Adams, Kaiser and Vazquez on June 28 on multiple charges of battery, including felonies. Adams was suspended with pay from the bench by the Supreme Court that same day, pending the investigation.

Adams pleaded guilty Sept. 9 in Marion Superior Court to a class A misdemeanor for battery, and was later sentenced to 365 days in jail, 363 suspended and credit for one day. He was not given probation time. Kaiser and Vazquez have jury trials set for Nov. 11, online court records show.

On Sept. 17, Adams filed a petition with the Indiana Supreme Court to be reinstated to the bench, in part because the felony charge that prompted his suspension had been dismissed. The Office of Judicial Qualifications objected to the reinstatement in a response Sept. 20, citing the ongoing judicial misconduct investigation as one of its reasons. The Indiana Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the matter.

A statement on behalf of Judge Adams by his attorneys, James Voyles Jr. and Jennifer Lukemeyer, reads that "From the day Judge Adams was shot to the day he accepted responsibility for his part in the incident on May 1, he has cooperated with law enforcement as well as the Judicial Qualifications Commission. He intends to work with the commission to reach an agreement that ultimately will allow him to return to the bench. No additional comment can be made as the matter is still under investigation."

Larry Wilder, representing Judge Jacobs, declined comment Friday; "It would be inappropriate for us to make any comment at this time," he said in a text message.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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