Friday, May 18, 2018

Voters in Boone County Indiana choose to oust long-term officer holder

I often hear the laments of voters and non-voters [which include those who feel that it is pointless] who decry the power that career politicians hold on political offices. A particular solution which is continually proposed is to restrict the options of the electorate. These proposals center on the contention that voters should be barred from choosing experienced office holders following a particular number of their terms in service. However, there already exist a limit on the number of terms officer holders may have which does not impinge upon the options voters may have. Here I use the recent primary and a particular office holder as illustrative of that.

Voters in Boone County Indiana made a strong statement in the 2018 Republican Primary race for Boone Circuit Court Judge this month by employing this limit.

The number of contestants exceeding positions for local elections in Boone County and its cities and towns are still somewhat unusual - County assessor, clerk and prosecutor all had single candidates. But after the sitting judge of the Boone Circuit Court, Jeff Edens, decided not to seek re-election three candidates filed to become the Republican nominee to fill that vacancy. Those were Todd Meyer [elected county prosecutor], Tamie Morog [an attorney in private practice], and Lori Schein [a former deputy Boone County prosecutor now working for the DMV].

Lori Schein narrowly beat Todd Meyer, edging him by just 41 votes. The final tally was 3478 [33.6%] Schein, 3437 [33.3%] Meyer, and 1491 [14.4%] Morog[fn1]. That outcome brought to an end Meyer’s 16 year reign in the Boone County Courthouse as the elected prosecutor.

Although not statutorily barred from seeking re-election to the Office of the Boone County Prosecutor or judge of the Boone Circuit Court voters instead chose to remove him from elected office by employing their existing term-limit option. Of the total voters casting ballots during the 2018 primary only 33% were for Meyer.

In the 2014 primary race 5469 of the 7185 voters selected Meyer. At that time he received 76% of the vote. In 2018 when two additional candidates were on the ballot he dropped to 33%. All it took was the addition of candidates. The unchallenged candidate to replace him as prosecutor received 6968 [67.4%] votes.

Apparently there was constituent dissatisfaction with the status quo even though he was repeatedly re-elected while running unchallenged.

His tenure could conservatively be described as a pay-to-play system where prosecutions were withheld against criminals represented in private practice by his deputy prosecutors, plea agreements were regularly offered [some which included financial payment in lieu of incarceration], and prosecutions were initiated against potential civil litigants to protect their targets.

Routinely offenders who had committed offenses against other people escaped punishment through guilty pleas while avoiding jail time. While police departments and their officers worked diligently in attempting to curtail offenses and hold offenders responsible, their efforts were regularly eschewed by a prosecutor who sought a high conviction rate over protecting the community. The political aspirations were readily apparent during his first term. Meyer intended to use the position of prosecutor not as an opportunity to best serve the community but, rather, as a launch pad for higher political office. His case history supports this contention.

In one such case Meyer brought charges against a parent whom he accused of planning to murder her teenage daughter who had Down-Syndrome. Meyer alleged that the mother had surreptitiously placed over 100 pills into a soda can and gave to the daughter thus causing her death. After all pre-trial efforts by the defense team were denied by Judge Rebecca McClure [former prosecutor and deputy prosecutor currently], Meyer offered a plea to a reduced charge calling for 6 months of jail time and three years of probation. Meyer, being aided by McClure from the bench, should have had a slam-dunk case of a parent murdering a disabled child as he alleged. However, rather than risk anything other that a jury verdict of guilty he offered a plea -- six months in jail, as time served awaiting trial, for allegedly murdering a disabled child.

Recently a Letter to the Editor of mine was printed in the Lebanon Reporter in response to Meyer’s contradictory messages regarding the killing of Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pickett and a plea agreement reached in a hostage taking incident where two juveniles were accosted and held at gunpoint. The plea agreement in the hostage taking incident was to the offense of not being licensed to carry the handgun used in the crime. In effect Meyer stated that had the offender obtained a license to carry the gun used in the crime that no offense would have occurred.

His contradictory statements about the revolving door for criminals sentenced by judges and his statement that judges give appropriate sentences, couple with his pleas that call for little or no incarceration, is the epitome of politically motivated action.

Meyer has been tough on some people though. Particularly when it comes to false allegations. In one highly publicized case Meyer sought convictions against victims of an arson fire. There, John Dixon was arrested and charged with a multitude of crimes including arson. This charge was based upon evidence as alleged in the charging information that; 1] Dixon ran from his burning residence after awakening to the fire, 2] moved his vehicle away from the front of the building, and 3] kept a small gas can in his work truck. Additionally, his girlfriend with whom he cohabitated was also charged in relation to the fire. Although charges against Dixon were dropped when John Middleton admitted to setting the fire, the girlfriend went to trial before a jury in the courtroom occupied by Rebecca McClure who clearly expressing hostility toward this fire victim, at one point slamming a folder on the bench and declaring that the victim was wasting the jurors’ time.

About 40 minutes after the conclusion of the trial the jury returned a not guilty verdict and two of the jurors hugged her and expressed their regret that she had been again victimized by having to go through the trial. She had already lost her home and contents including pets, children’s photos and momentos, plus other irreplaceables to an arsonist. A plea was offered to her calling for one year of no-report probation, no fees, and expungement of conviction upon the termination of the year but, as an innocent victim, she honorably declined the offer.

Then there are a multitude of Domestic Violence cases in which victims were prosecuted, charges were withheld against perpetrators, and perpetrators were overcharged. No consistency at all. When it comes to Domestic Violence in Boone County who you are and how you are related to government employees matters greatly.

You have likely heard that when it comes to criminal charges the amount you can pay to defend yourself has substantial influence on the outcome. In short, “justice” is for sale and poor people can’t buy their way out. Jack Trudeau, the Zionsville resident who played for the Indianapolis Colts was convicted of hosting an underage drinking party. In 2007, through a plea agreement, he paid a $5000 fine in lieu of jail time. In 2015 under a combined plea agreement he was sentenced to three days in jail after threatening to kill a Zionsville Police Officer and for his second drunk driving offense. His BAC was .31 in the immediate case.

Finally, as far as what I am mentioning here, is the use of the office for personal objectives. Twice I was charged and jailed for alleged crimes but when it came time to get the matters before jurors I was stymied at every turn by Meyer and his cohort Judge Steve David. Even after charges were dismissed and I filed a motion to reinstate the felony charge, risking imprisonment if found guilty, and demand for jury trial Judge David denied that request.

I had previously alleged through invitations to the trial posted around Lebanon that corruption by Judge David and Todd Meyer would be revealed at trial. Meyer filed a motion asking David to vacate the trial which he did without giving me an opportunity to respond.

I had also drafted a charge against Meyer for prosecutorial misconduct and submitted to the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme Court which subsequently charged him with the offense. Although the underlying action of the alleged offense was published in a local newspaper no judge, lawyer, law enforcement officer or any other person aligned with the judicial system bothered to report the offense. That says quite a bit in itself.

Clearly Boone County residents had experienced enough of Meyer’s 16-year reign as prosecutor where these and similar incidents were the norm. Although Meyer had overwhelming support from owners of vacant properties throughout Lebanon it was not enough to overcome the feelings of his victims throughout Boone County - those people who have been impacted by the gross mishandling of the Office of the Boone County Prosecutor.

Meyer intended to use the Office of Boone County Prosecutor as a stepping stone to higher office. This is evinced by his frequent use of special prosecutors. He gains political clout for bringing the charge and “taking aggressive action” but then seeks a special prosecutor knowing that the case will crumble.

Voters can limit the number of terms of their elected officials and they don’t need a legislative act limiting their options to do it. What is needed is challengers of high ethical character who are willing to subject themselves to the grilling of the protectors of the status quo.

Meyer was ejected from the next term of public office and, I think likely from future political office, because he lacks integrity. His interests are selfish.

I initially met him in 2003 and my first impression was that he was like the unskilled son who inherited the CEO position when daddy retired or died and is only able to put on the face of running the show because of the strength of those under him.

I felt that he was still on the tit. That he lacked the competence and fortitude to best serve the residents of Boone County. He is like the child who gets upset, takes his toys and runs home to mommy for comfort.

He and other politicians like him should pack up and run home. Our elected officials should, foremost, demonstrate integrity. As voters it is our duty to demand it and throw them out when they don’t demonstrate it. Political office holders are bound by so many rules and receive ample assistance and advice from advisors that little more than character fitness is necessary.

1] Total does not equal 100% because voters choosing a Democrat ballot could not select Republican nominees. Total votes were 10336. Total votes for Republican nominees for circuit court judge were 8406. Highest vote for a Democrat position was 1583. Party selection of 347 voters is unknown.

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