INdiana Systemic Thinking

March 16, 2008

DOC Makes Improvements At Girls School

Remember back in December when I posted this about St. Joseph County Judge Peter Nemeth? The story then was he refused to send female juveniles to the Indiana Girls School for a variety of complaints.

Well, today’s South Bend Tribune is reporting the Department of Corrections is making some staffing changes that are encouraging to Nemeth. Specifically;

The DOC has announced it will end a two-year-old arrangement to house boys and girls at the same Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility by moving the boys to a recently renovated section of the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Nemeth said he was encouraged by the DOC’s announcement that a “staffing plan for the facility is being developed to ensure the appropriate deployment of staff.”

“If they are actually doing a staffing plan … if it means more than just words, I think that is real progress,” the judge said. “I applaud them for that.

Girls will be moved into the unit being vacated by the boys. The unit will house girls in single rooms that lock from a central control location, along with a special management unit specifically programmed for girls struggling with mental health issues.

“It looks like they are going to do what we want them to do,” said Bill Bruinsma, executive director of the St. Joseph County Juvenile Justice Center. “We’ll have to see what staffing they’re going to add in and what kind of programming they’re going to put into it … It’s a step in the right direction.”

However, Nemeth doesn’t appear completely sold on the changes…

Nemeth said he still will avoid sending girls to the Indianapolis facility until he knows more details about the changes, especially whether staff-to-child ratios improve. Instead, he said he is sending girls who are the most difficult to rehabilitate to a private juvenile detention facility in Vincennes, at a daily cost to the county of $138, compared to $60 a day at the Indianapolis DOC girls school.

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February 24, 2008

Straight Talk

Filed under: IN Judiciary,Indiana,Legal/Law — kurtglmft @ 9:04 am
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This little tidbit is too good to pass up. Unfortunately it was buried way down at the bottom of this article. You have to like it when someone bypasses all the politically correct diplomacy and says exactly what they mean and want:

Fielding special requests is just part of the job when it comes to holding public office — just ask Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The governor spoke Tuesday at the Outlook 2008 economic luncheon in Carmel.

He recalled receiving an especially flowery introduction before another recent address. Daniels said he stood up on that day to say first that he appreciated the kind words.

“I got up and said, ‘Bob, I don’t know how to thank you,’ ” Daniels recalled.

“He jumped up and said, ‘I do — I want to be a Superior Court judge.’ ”

The governor appoints county judges when there are vacancies.

Niiiiiiiice.

February 16, 2008

Follow Up: Lennington Gives Up Tax Court

Following up on my posts here and here, the Muncie Star Press is reporting:

Delaware County Circuit Court 5 Judge Wayne Lennington has relinquished jurisdiction over all cases related to tax sales, a week after acknowledging he was the target of a criminal investigation that involves his personal investments.

All five Delaware Circuit Court judges, including Lennington, signed an order Wednesday that transferred tax sale cases to the other four courts, and allowed the re-assignment of criminal cases from Lennington’s court at Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney’s discretion.

February 9, 2008

Delaware Judge Now Says He is Extortion Victim

In a follow up to my post yesterday, Delaware County Circuit Court Judge Wayne Lennington now says he was a victim of an extortion plot, according to the Muncie Star Press:

Judge Wayne Lennington said Friday he believed an extortion attempt might have kindled an already existing investigation into his business affairs.

“If I would have paid him, I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” said the Delaware Circuit Court 5 judge. “But I wasn’t going to do that.”

On Friday, Lennington provided The Star Press with a copy of an e-mail whose author threatened to deliver to federal investigators information that was damaging to Lennington and a business partner, Joseph Gray, unless the men paid him $250,000.

The judge said he believed his extortionist was an Ohio man he had met once through Gray.

In a May 30, 2007 e-mail to Gray, the man purportedly wrote, “My attorney assures me that the material in my possession are sufficient to have Judge Lennington removed from the bench, and the both of you criminally prosecuted.”

Furthermore, the e-mail stated the man would be willing to turn over to investigators:

  • Taped conversations between himself and Gray about Gray’s relationship with Lennington.
  • Faxes to him from Lennington’s home.
  • “Copies of prints from the golf course,” which Lennington believes is a reference to an aerial photograph Lennington provided Gray of a Delaware County golf course they were considering buying.
  • Information about “unfettered access” to tax sale information.Sometime after receiving the e-mail, Gray showed the message to Lennington, the judge said.Lennington told The Star Press he had never done anything illegal so he felt comfortable sharing the extortion message with state police and Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney’s office.
  • The judge could not provide a precise timeline concerning when Gray first provided him the e-mail and when he notified authorities.

    Lennington said he has not heard back from the police or prosecutor.

    While Lennington was under investigation before the extortion attempt, the fact that he refused to cooperate with the extortionist might have indirectly “intensified” investigators efforts to bring him down, the judge suggested.

    He questioned whether the extortionist, embittered by Lennington’s resolve, was feeding authorities false information that the judge conspired with Gray in illegal scams.

    An effort to reach the alleged extortionist through the e-mail address provided by Lennington was unsuccessful.

    Lennington didn’t mention the extortion letter during the Thursday interview in which he confirmed he was being investigated. The judge said he wasn’t comfortable with releasing the letter until a second conversation with a reporter on Friday.

    February 8, 2008

    Delaware County Circuit Court Judge Under Investigation

    From the Muncie Star Press:

    Delaware Circuit Court 5 Judge Wayne Lennington acknowledged Thursday he is under criminal investigation for his connection to investment properties but denied any wrongdoing.

    Lennington, 77 — a local attorney for four decades before his 1998 appointment to the bench — said he was guilty only of associating himself with an Ohio man he now describes as a scam artist.

    “I didn’t do nothing except get screwed,” the judge said. Lennington said he believes he is under investigation by Indiana State Police and the Delaware County prosecutor’s office for his business ties to ESS Investments LLC, which is operated by Joseph Gray and chartered out of Westerville, Ohio.

    ESS has owned at least five properties on the south side of Muncie and in the northeastside Whiteley neighborhood since 2004. Those five properties account for more than $32,000 in delinquent real estate taxes and city sewage bills, according to the Delaware County treasurer’s office.

    Lennington said he never had ownership interest in ESS Investments, which despite its Ohio charter maintains a South Carolina address and a disconnected South Carolina phone number.

    He admits, however, to lending Gray $20,000 shortly after ESS bought the local houses to finance their restoration.

    “I thought we could fix them up and flip them and make some money,” Lennington said, adding most homes went unrestored and he never saw a return on his investment.

    Being a gullible investor and knowing a slumlord, however, are not illegal. Instead, evidence suggests investigators are interested in Lennington because of his longtime role as administrator of Delaware County’s tax court.

    Staci Schneider, a spokesman for Attorney General Steve Carter, would not confirm Thursday night whether their office was conducting an investigation into Lennington, nor would ISP Sgt. Rod Russell, the public information officer for the Redkey post.

    Lennington said he never acted improperly as tax sale judge nor did he use his authority for financial gain.

    January 30, 2008

    Judge Currie Gets Probation

    In an update to my post here, Carroll Circuit Court Judge Donald Currie received probation, will have his driver’s license restricted, and will have to pay court costs due to a recent charge of Public Intoxication.  Here is the full story, from the Carroll County Comet.

    Carroll Circuit Court Judge Donald Currie pled not guilty at an initial hearing Dec. 26 after being arrested for public intoxication Dec. 23 in Boone County. A bench trial was scheduled for March at the initial hearing, but Currie then scheduled a plea agreement for Feb. 19. However, that date was moved up when Currie pled and was found guilty in Boone County Superior Court II by Judge Rebecca McClure Jan. 22.

    According to the Lebanon Reporter, Currie was found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and issued a 180-day suspended sentence with credit given for his day in the Boone County Jail. Currie was ordered to pay $450 legal fees and his drivers’ license was restricted.

    Currie’s case could be investigated by the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission concerning judicial conduct violations. According to Meg Babcock, supervisor for the counsel to the commission, that process is completely separate from the court case and is not a matter of public record until the time formal charges are filed with the Indiana Supreme Court.

    “There is a lot the commission can do short of filing charges,” Babcock said.

    She said there could be no investigation, suspension from office without pay and other remedies which include fines, removal from office or disbarment. She called removal from office the “ultimate sanction.” Babcock said the Indiana Supreme Court would be the entity to decide upon the sanction if charges were filed. The commission would be making a recommendation to that court.

    Babcock referred the Comet to two similar cases investigated by the commission in the past two years. In both cases, the judges stipulated to the facts of the cases and their “misconduct.” Both were issued a “public reprimand” for their behavior.

    January 27, 2008

    State Lags in Mental Records Reporting (For Guns)

    Filed under: Guns,IN Judiciary,Indiana — kurtglmft @ 12:57 am
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    When I read this headline, I was concerned (that’s why I included the “For Guns” part).  Then I read the story and calmed down.  From the Story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

    Indiana hasn’t supplied a national database with the names of people its state courts have deemed unfit to own guns because of mental health issues, but gun-control advocates hope federal incentives will change that.

    [Paul] Helmke [president of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence] argues that privacy is one issue that should have no bearing on whether states send records, because the reporting requirement applies only to people who have gone through the state court systems, not those who seek voluntary commitment or counseling.

    Oh, so this is a court issue, not a mental health issue…  Well why didn’t you just say that?  Big difference here in that courts have a different standard for judging someone as “mentally ill” than those in the mental health system.  Still, if the courts are required to report, why don’t they?  They seem to notify the BMV when they take someone’s license on a regular basis, so it can’t be all that hard.

    January 17, 2008

    We’re from the Government and We’re Here to Help

    Here is another in a long list of articles about the opening of the prosecutor’s moble office at Phoenix apartments in Indianapolis.  While the Blogmeister has supported the prosecutor’s office in their efforts to DO SOMETHING at the troubled site, it is unfortunate the Indianapolis Star continues to rerun the same news with different quotes, especially when we still don’t know who made the decision to return 3 year old TaJanay Bailey to her mother, who allegedly killed her at the site.

    Regardless, here is a part of the story, which made the Blogmeister chuckle:

    “I can’t force them to take advantage of these services, but I can sure encourage them,” Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said, standing in front of the portable office.
    Soon after, Erica Andrews answered her door to find Brizzi and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard standing in the stairwell. They gave her the first edition of a planned weekly newsletter, “Phoenix Rising,” that lists services offered in the trailer each weekday during business hours.
    Andrews, 24, said later that she probably won’t have a reason to visit. But she appreciated the efforts from the prosecutor’s office, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and other organizations.

    January 12, 2008

    Tajanay Bailey Court Hearing Recording Released

    According to today’s Indianapolis Star, Marion County Juvenile Court officials released the recording of the last hearing in the Tajanay Bailey case.  A complete overview of the recording is provided by the Star.  However, of most importance is this part;

    [Magistrate Scott] Stowers’ questions focused mostly on the process of the case. At the end, he approved the DCS plan to initiate unsupervised visits with approval from the counselor and the advocate.

    Read that closely… “he approved the DCS plan to initiate unsupervised visits with the approval from the counselor and the advocate.”  In the Blogmeister’s experience, it is not unusual for a Judge, or Magistrate in this case, to approve certain things, pending approval of counselors and advocates.  The reason for this is these people often know the case the best, have a great deal of contact with the family, and, in the counselor’s case, have more training and expertise on family issues than anyone else involved.  So, no problem there (except, again in my experience, DCS hates this because they feel their paying for the case, so they should get to say).  However, his order was to initiate unsupervised visits pending approval, not initiate reunification. 

    At the core of this case, and yet to be determined, if ever, is who made the decision to go beyond the Court’s mandate and reunify this family.  The Blogmeister’s guess…someone at DCS.  Why you ask?  They had the most to gain by reunifying the family.  They would save foster-care and treatment money and it would fit with their internal provisions to reunify the family within eighteen months.  It is also interesting the advocate and the counselor, remember the two people who the Judge pended his order for their approval, were seeking court intervention to get her back into foster care.  That hearing was scheduled for the day she died.

    Now maybe DCS didn’t take it upon themselves to reunify this family.  Maybe it was a “team” decision, maybe aliens came and did it.  The fact is we don’t know.  Until we know who made this decision, can we expect any real changes at DCS?  Further, doesn’t the court now have standing to, on it’s own motion, conduct a hearing to find out how this family was reunified despite it’s own order to the contrary.  I’m no lawyer, but that sounds a lot like contempt of court to me.

    January 11, 2008

    Charity Bailey’s Records Released: Police @ Phoenix

    Last week Charity Bailey’s records were released from the Marion County Juvenile court.  According to the Indianapolis Star:

    The 20-year-old Indianapolis woman now sits in a jail cell, accused along with her live-in boyfriend of killing her 3-year-old daughter, TaJanay, in November.
    Bailey’s alleged role in TaJanay’s death is the latest twist in a troubled life detailed in an unusual release of juvenile delinquency records Friday.
    Those records reveal a childhood fraught with drugs, sexual abuse and family discord — and a long list of interventions that failed to turn around her life.

    The article is really long and almost…almost…makes one feel sorry for her.  It’s a good example of what we in the therapy world call transgenerational issues.  Simply put, the term means issues that travel from on generation to the next.  It’s not an excuse for behavior, because every adult can change their circumstances, but an explanation for how these things happen.

    On a related note, the Indy Star has another story about the police and prosecutor opening offices in the Phoenix apartment complex where Tajanay died.
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