Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Star: Prosecutor's Silence On Misdemeanor Only Charges Against Irsay Opens Door To Criticism

The Star's Tim Evans has a follow-up story to last Friday's late announcement by the Hamilton Co. Prosecutor's Office that only misdemeanor charges would be filed against Colts owner Jim Irsay in connection with his drugged driving arrest last March. Evans writes that "the prosecutor's silence, coupled with the timing of that charging decision, did little to instill public confidence that Irsay--despite his position and wealth--was treated like anyone else." Evans believes Lee Buckingham's handling of Irsay's prosecution raises the following questions:
  • Why did it take more than two months to charge Irsay?
  • What happened to the drug charges? Did Irsay have prescriptions for the drugs?
  • Did the prosecutor hold off charging Irsay after the team owner helped the city make a bid last week to host the 2018 Super Bowl?
  •  And why were charges filed in the minutes before the courts closed for the long Memorial Day/Indianapolis 500 weekend?
Not surprisingly, former Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp defended Buckingham. "I am familiar with the individuals in the position of making those judgments and determinations," Leerkamp said, "and, based upon my knowledge of those individuals and their character, I would never suspect any of them of showing favorable treatment based on (a suspect's) position in the community."

Leerkamp, herself, faced criticism for her handling of high-profile cases. In two cases separated by years involving serious allegations that members of Carmel High School's swim teams and basketball teams had raped anally younger teammates in some twisted hazing ritual, she concluded felony charges weren't warranted. Incredibly, in another case where a minor was served alcohol at the home of a physician and later drove his car into a retention pond and drowned, she claimed there were no laws that would allow her to bring charges against adults who serve alcohol to a minor at a private party. Leerkamp also dropped hit-and-run charges against Nancy Irsay, Jim Irsay's step-mother, who also escaped drunk driving charges in Marion County following her arrest after she was stopped by Indianapolis police for driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone and then refused to submit to a blood alcohol test administered by police.

Evans' story includes interviews with several legal ethics experts, who agree that Buckingham has no obligation to explain to the public why he chose not to bring more serious, felony charges in Irsay's case. "Charles Geyh, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said that although he didn't see an ethical mandate, 'as a practical matter, this is someone who runs for office, and the electorate might think differently about explaining himself.'" Retired law professor William Hodes suggested that police may have deliberately over-charged Irsay. "What if the police on the scene were out of line and charging everything because it's fun to catch Jimmy Irsay?" Hodes asked. The Carmel Police Department declined to comment on the prosecutor's decision.


Flogger said...

A lot of questions concerning the treatment Irsay has received have not been answered. They will not be answered. I think most of us who are aware of the way our system really operates are not surprised. The system as it is designed exists to defend the 1%.

What happened to the Drugs Irsay had in possession?? Who prescribed them or were they made by the local equivalent Breaking Bad's Walter White.

The Star asks these questions now. Why did take so long for the Star to ask these questions?? I suspect The Star sat on this story until after the Stupor Bowl Bid was made. Likewise I thing the Organs of State Security in Hamilton County followed the same script. It makes you wonder who else in the 1% our "Justice System" is offering Protection for.

Gary R. Welsh said...

A lot of people like to focus their criticism of the criminal justice system on judges; however, it's the prosecutors who really have a greater impact on outcomes in criminal cases. Having the unfettered discretion to charge or not to charge a person with a crime is the greatest power wielded by any one person in the criminal justice system. The inequalities people complain about are often the direct result of the manner in which prosecutors choose to exercise that discretion. Prosecutors don't think alike, and the practices vary wildly from prosecutor to prosecutor across the state.

Anonymous said...

What would Carl Brizzi do?