Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Whoops, She Did It Again

The action inaction of Sonia Leerkamp in the the case of 49-year-old habitual traffic offender Edward Karwatka leaves criminal defense lawyers scratching their heads. Karwatka is the man who was arrested for crushing a 33-year-old mother between his car and her car on New Year's Day and then fleeing the scene, leaving Tabetha Lynn in critical condition. Fox59 News explains his sordid driving and criminal past and outstanding warrant that begs the question of why he was a free man:

Police told Fox59 he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of Driving While Intoxicated in 1998. A felony DWI conviction came one year later. Five years later, a felony conviction for assisting a criminal. In 2006, Karwatka was hit with felony number three for carrying a handgun without a license. He also had another DWI and just two years ago a felony DUI.

"That's crazy so I guess I understand why he didn't stop," witness Paris Love said. "Oh my goodness."

"He shouldn't have been out at all," she said.

Attorney John Thompkins explained how Karwatka was still free and who, if anyone dropped the ball.

"The question is not what the judge did but what was in front of the judge, presented by the prosecutor in terms of habitual enhancements and whether or not they were filed," Thompkins said.

A message left for Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp was not returned Tuesday.

Karwatka was a wanted man before the crash.

Hamilton County issued a warrant on charges of being a habitual traffic violator and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Fox59 News was told he was a no show for his last scheduled court appearance.

"If he was out on a D felony OWI, failure to appear, there are literally thousands of warrants and the sheriff'ss department has to prioritize which ones they are going to serve," Thompkins said.

There was also the five year rule to consider.

A first OWI will likely be a misdemeanor, if another happens within five years, that's a felony but if a third happens after a five year period, it's back to just a misdemeanor.

"It sounds like he had good representation at the sentencing hearings," Thompkins said.

Karwatka faces preliminary charges of Failure to Stop After an Accident Resulting in Injury and Operating as a Habitual Traffic Violator. Karwatka was also wanted on an outstanding warrant out of Hamilton County on charges of being a Habitual Traffic Violator and Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated.
If Karwatka's name sounds familiar, it's because he was the person found to be aiding and abetting a fugitive Noblesville doctor who faked his own death.and then hid out at Karwatka's home on the east side of Indianapolis for months before police finally found him. Dr. Thomas Hoshour, who employed Karwatka, had been charged with fraudulently billing insurance companies before he disappeared after faking his death by leaving behind a suicide note. Police months later traced cell phone calls made by Hoshour to Karwatka's home where the fugitive doctor was hiding out. Perhaps Leerkamp can offer some rational explanation for why her office didn't insist on locking up Karwatka the last time he appeared in Hamilton Co. court given all of his prior OWI convictions.


Blog Admin said...

Didn't Hamilton County just have an election for a new Prosecutor? When does he/she take office?

Gary R. Welsh said...

She is no longer in office, but this happened on her watch.

dcrutch said...

Very good to see you back, Gary. It wasn't pleasant imagining something amiss with our most prominent lighthouse, illuminating the darkest corners.

Unknown said...

They actually used to give stiff sentences in Marion County for even the D Felony HTV. Now many of them are plead out with probation.

Their information is partially incorrect. ANY DUI conviction within 5 years of the date of the alleged second or third or however many arrest still makes it a D Felony.

I didn't think these shenanigans were as prevalent in the doughnut counties, perhaps crimes with an extremely high recidivism rate like DUI should have more enhancements.

Good to see you back, we were worried there for a while...

Gary R. Welsh said...

Recall the case of the Purdue freshman who attended a party in Fishers, was served alcohol at the party and then drove his car into a retention pond and drowned. Although the adult owners of the home where the party was hosted had allowed alcohol to be served to the minor, Leerkamp announced no criminal charges could be brought against the adults because they were not licensed to serve alcohol. That came as a surprise to every prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in the state who have often seen adults charged for serving alcohol to minors under any number of criminal statutes.

Marycatherine Barton said...

So long, Sonia.