Every day brings a new twist to the public office known as the Marion County Coroner's office. Today, Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has obtained the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate an employee of the office for possible criminal activity. Barry Brown, the former Monroe County Prosecutor who earlier this year filed charges against City-County Councilor Ron Gibson (D), has been appointed to handle the task. The Star's Jon Murray reports:
A special prosecutor was appointed Wednesday to investigate possible criminal activity by an employee who works at the Marion County coroner's office.Murray's report, which does not specifically identify the person being investigated or the crime the employee allegedly committed, notes that the prosecutor's office has been investigating the coroner's office for thefts, alteration of property records and mishandling of bodies. An AI source has also alleged ghost employment and improper referrals to a private autopsy company. Murray also draws attention to Ackles' current counsel, Ralph Staples, a former member of Brizzi's prosecutorial staff who left under a cloud revolving around his former relationship with a paralegal in the office.
Marion Superior Court Presiding Judge Cale Bradford appointed former Monroe County prosecutor Barry Brown, who has handled several politically sensitive cases for Marion County. Among them: investigations of City Councilman Ron Gibson, charged with assaulting a police officer, and Heather Bolejack, the former executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, who was not charged with wrongdoing.
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi requested the appointment to avoid the appearance of impropriety, since he and Coroner Kenneth Ackles are elected officials and work together in criminal cases, his written request states.
A spokeswoman said the coroner's office investigation was of one person, but she would not specify allegations. The person under investigation was not identified.
"We are asking Mr. Brown to look at the information and decide whether criminal activity involving an employee at the Marion County coroner's office has occurred," said Helen Marchal, Brizzi's chief counsel.
Ralph Staples, an attorney for Ackles, said he did not know the allegations at issue. If an employee is prosecuted, he said, Ackles would take appropriate action.
Since earlier this year, Brizzi's grand jury division has been investigating allegations gainst the coroner's office. They include thefts, mishandling of bodies and improper ecord keeping. In September, investigators served a search warrant on the coroner's office, 521 W. McCarty St., and seized seven death investigation files.
Brown has served as special prosecutor in several local cases, including one involving Staples in 2003, when he was supervisor of felony prosecutions for the prosecutor's office. Brown investigated accusations related to Staples' breakup with a paralegal who also worked for the office, but declined to file charges.