Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cold Case Files And Gubernatorial Pardons: Was There A Quick Pro Quo?

Gov. Mitch Daniels is urging Indiana lawmakers to relax sentencing laws to give judges more discretion in meting out punishment to criminal offenders in an effort to reduce the cost of incarcerating prisoners in the state correctional system, particularly those offenders who are deemed non-violent. The recent execution-style murder of Indianapolis police officer David Moore by 11-time convicted felon Thomas Hardy, a designated "non-violent offender" who had been mistakenly let out of jail after violating the terms of his parole due to comedy of errors made by corrections officials, has given pause to lawmakers to put more criminals back on the streets simply to squeeze additional savings out of the state budget. As chilling as the consequences in Hardy's case were, it is a bit of a stretch to lay the blame for this mistake at Gov. Daniels' door. Several people have expressed to me their concern, however, of what they see as a pattern of the governor making politically expedient decisions that collide with the public interest. One glaring example they've shown me is a gubernatorial pardon issued in 2007 by Gov. Daniels to one Steven Quick, the president of the local public employees union in Indianapolis, AFSCME Local 725, for an old criminal conviction.

Quick has been a big supporter of Republicans like Gov. Daniels, former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith and current Mayor Greg Ballard. Critics view it as a bit of an oddity for a public employees union boss to support elected officials who are outspoken proponents of privatization efforts that often turn government workers out of their jobs, or who in the case of Gov. Daniels as one of his first acts as governor, repealed an executive order put into place by his Democratic predecessors that recognized collective bargaining rights for the very public employees Quick's union represents. Critics wonder how a man who supports candidates who seem to be anathema to the views of rank-and-file AFSCME members can even be elected as a union leader, laying aside Quick's troubling past criminal history. His leadership role for the union would seem as unlikely as Planned Parenthood choosing Eric Miller, a Christian activist and ardent foe of abortion, as its leader.

Critics believe Gov. Daniels' short-sighted pardon of Quick was due to the unlikely political support he has received from Quick, who admitted to taking part in a strong-armed robbery on July 13, 1978 near downtown Indianapolis on Indiana Avenue that resulted in the near-death shooting of a female victim. According to Indiana Parole Board records on Quick's pardon case, Quick and another man, Anthony Hawthorne, held up a woman at gunpoint while she waited outside in her car in a parking lot for her boyfriend to pick up food inside of King's Soul Food restaurant. One of the men hopped in the front passenger-side seat of her car while the other climbed into the back seat and ordered her at gun point to give them her money. The men grabbed her purse but found only $10. They then ordered her to drive off with them in the car, but she laid on the horn instead, alerting her boyfriend, who then rushed to her aid. The men ordered her boyfriend into the car at gunpoint, took $200 in cash from him and forced the woman to drive them down the street and turn into an alley. The woman's boyfriend grabbed one of the men's arms and struggled with him. During the struggle, the woman was shot in the chest and both ran down the alley.

According to the narrative in the parole board file, Quick and Hawthorne had not been implicated in the strong-armed robbery and shooting until two years later when Hawthorne was in police custody for suspicion of committing another crime and confessed to the armed robbery and shooting and told police of Quick's role. Hawthorne mistakenly believed the female victim had been killed in the shooting, but she actually survived the shooting. The parole board narrative indicated that Hawthorne and not Quick had pulled the trigger. Quick claimed he had fled the scene on foot before Hawthorne shot the woman. On February 26, 1981, then-Marion Co. Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith struck a plea deal with Quick under which he pleaded guilty to a Class C felony robbery charge and was sentenced to 2 years in prison with one year suspended from his sentence; the more serious charges against Quick for Class A felony robbery and Class B felony confinement were dropped. The actual facts of the shooting are difficult to ascertain because, as the parole board file indicated, the original police file had gone missing. The police involved in the investigation of the original arrest could not be identified, and the sentencing judge in the case had since died. While Department of Correction records confirm Quick served one year in prison for the crime, there are no records on the Department's online criminal offender database of Hawthorne's conviction and sentence, even though he was the one who supposedly confessed to the shooting.

A 1995 interview of Quick in Nuvo, Indianapolis' weekly alternative newspaper, concerning the 1978 armed robbery conviction quotes him as saying, "That stuff there was in the '70s . . . I'm moving forward and I feel good about myself." Nuvo's 1995 story on Quick focused on his role as a leader in the local AFSCME union and his public support of Mayor Goldsmith. The alternative newspaper found it a bid odd to find a man Goldsmith had put away in his role as prosecutor years earlier for a serious crime on the city payroll in a top union position publicly supporting his privatization initiatives and participating as an enthusiastic supporter in his re-election campaign. After being released from prison, Quick worked a few years for Wilhelm Construction before becoming a truck driver for the City's Department of Public Works while Bill Hudnut was still mayor. Quick continued to work for the department during Goldsmith's eight years as mayor and thereafter. He currently works part-time as an electrician for the department paid $20,000 a year according to 2008 salary information posted online, while devoting the balance of his time to his duties as union president.

As it turns out, the 1978 strong-armed robbery was not the only time Quick had been in trouble with the law. One year prior to Quick's arrest in the Indiana Avenue armed robbery shooting, Quick and his brother Gregory were indicted in 1979 for murder. The two men were accused of shooting and killing a man while he sat in his car in a liquor store parking lot. The charges were later dismissed due to a problem with the evidence. According to DOC records, Quick's brother Gregory was later convicted and sentenced for dealing cocaine on May 8, 1991, Goldsmith's last year as Marion Co. prosecutor, a Class B felony, according to DOC records. A 2007 story by Fred Ramos for Nuvo revisited Quick's criminal past and first questioned the pardon Daniels gave to him for the armed robbery case, raising the issue of the 1979 murder charge against Quick:

In 1979, Marion County Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith filed murder charges against Quick. (Yes, the same Steve Goldsmith that would later became mayor of Indianapolis. Guess who would later become leader of Marion County’s public employee union? That’s right, Steve Quick).

Documents report Quick and his brother, Gregory, was indicted after a man was shot in the chest. The victim was sitting alone in his car at a liquor store parking lot when he was shot. The man died. But Deputy Prosecutor, Robert Thompson dismissed the charges.

In a published report, years after the murder charge against Quick was dismissed, Thompson (who returned to private practice) said, he felt he had “insufficient evidence for a conviction.” He added, “There is no statute of limitation on murder. We hoped for a stronger case later on.”

The Indiana Torch spoke with Thompson recently and asked if Daniel’s office had contacted him concerning Quick, the pardon and the murder case. “No one from the governor’s office has contacted me concerning Steve Quick,” said Thompson.
When I reviewed the parole board file on Quick's pardon, I found nothing in it pertaining to the 1979 murder charge against Quick. I questioned Parole Board Vice-Chairman Randy Gentry, who participated in the unanimous recommendation of Quick's pardon to the governor about the absence of any mention of the murder charge in Quick's pardon file. Gentry said it was irrelevant to the board's consideration of Quick's pardon because the charges had been dismissed. The parole board seemed unconcerned that the case had remained unsolved. When Gov. Daniels approved Quick's pardon, a spokesperson for the governor told Ramos that he had no knowledge of the murder charge when he signed off on the pardon:
When asked if Gov. Daniels was aware of Quick’s murder charge before pardoning him for the 1980 shooting. “No, he did not,” said Jankowski. “Gov. Daniels reviewed a unanimous recommendation from the parole board that was in favor of the petition.

Jankowski said the parole board considered Quick’s petition for parole, “This might be the strongest case for granting a pardon, the board has reviewed.”

The Torch asked if Gov. Daniels would have granted the pardon if he’d known about Quick’s murder charge.

“I’m not going to take a hypothetical like that to him,” said Jankowski. “He doesn’t have anything more to say about it.”
As the prosecutor in the murder case noted to Ramos, the statute of limitatations never runs for the crime of murder. Just this week Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry brought murder charges against a man who had earlier been charged in the 1986 slaying of 13-year-old Dawn Stuard but had the charges against him later dropped due to evidentiary problems. Curry charged Paul Reese, Sr. after police recently tied DNA evidence found in Reese's basement to the victim. Marion County currently has about 800 cold murder cases according to a story in the Star this past week following the announcement murder charges had been brought against Reese.

In support of his pardon request, Quick stated, "I have proven that I have turned my life around and I have served my community." Quick hinted at a desire to someday run for political office. "I would like the opportunity to possibly run for office and continue to serve my community by giving back," he wrote. His petition noted he was married and had three children. He touted his work with the Front Porch Alliance and a violence reduction program. The pardon file noted he owned a home on Indianapolis' northwest side valued at $180,000 and four other properties, as well as Quick Realty.

While the police officer in charge of the unit that investigated burglaries and larceny at the time of Quick's arrest and the prosecutor who handled his case declined to offer a recommendation to the parole board, he had no shortage of heavy hitters backing his plea for a pardon. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi described Quick as a "poster child" for someone who had turned their life around. Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams, who himself won a presidential pardon from President George W. Bush for a federal theft conviction from his days working for the U.S. Postal Service so he could be a candidate for the Indianapolis school board, sang Quick's praises. House Speaker Brian Bosma described Quick as "a trustworthy and honorable person" he had known for years. Gov. Daniels' controversial former Lottery Director Esther Schneider said Quick and his wife were close friends who frequently dined with her and her husband and were often guests in each other's homes. Former Indiana State Republican Chairman Murray Clark supported Quick's pardon, as did the party's former executive director and State Representative Luke Messer. Messer said Quick had "played a major role in Indiana politics" and had "worked on a number of campaigns."

Noticeably missing from those supporting Quick's pardon was former Mayor Steve Goldsmith. Quick did, however, include a scrapbook filled with old newspaper stories, letters and e-mail exchanges from the Goldsmith years, including personal notes of thanks from Goldsmith and other high level members of his administration thanking Quick for his support of the administration's privatization initiatives. Because Goldsmith was prosecutor at the time of Quick's conviction, it would have seemed logical that he would have weighed in on the pardon request as opposed to the current prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who knew little about Quick's past. Quick's scrapbook included a personal note from Daniels thanking Quick for supporting his campaign for governor when he first ran in 2004 and joining him on the campaign trail to lend his support.

Quick standing to the left behind Ballard at his campaign re-election kickoff

My interest in the Quick pardon piqued after I observed photos of him standing directly behind Mayor Greg Ballard at his campaign re-election announcement last month at the Indiana War Memorial. I recalled the public role Quick had played as AFSCME president in the ouster of former Animal Care & Control Director Doug Rae. In an e-mail exchange with Ray last month he told me about his interaction with Quick. Rae, who relocated to Indianapolis from Philadelphia to take the job running IACC, told me, "I couldn't get away from your dysfunctional city and the political corruption fast enough once I knew I was done." Rae and the former chairman of the advisory board overseeing IACC, Warren Patitz, both told many of the problems at the agency related to the inordinate control the employees of Quick's union exercised over the agency's operations. Rae complained that the Mayor's office, Department of Public Safety, City Legal and Human Resources were all about "bowing" to the union's "every wish."

Rae was brought aboard IACC in an effort to clean up the troubled agency by Public Safety Director Scott Newman after former Indianapolis City-County Council President Steve Tally was forced out for poor management issues. Once Newman abruptly stepped down as Public Safety Director, Rae's support from the Ballard administration evaporated. When Rae attempted to correct staffing probems at the agency, Quick immediately began meddling. According to Rae, Quick verbally assaulted him in front of his employees and repeatedly reminded him he had direct access to the Mayor's office whenever he wanted it. Rae described Quick's people skills as "the very worst" and the "poster boy" for why public unions are "ineffective." Quick prodded the employees to resist any changes he attempted to make and use up 100% of their eligible time off by calling in sick, requesting light duty work or taking FMLA leave. To Rae, Quick was a "bully" in need of being "put in his place." "There was no compromise with Quick," Rae said. "It was his life or he would make my life a living hell." Whenever the issue turned on Quick's actions, Rae said he would "play the race card."

Public Safety Director Frank Straub (center) shown with Quick
Rae had no awareness of Quick's criminal past when he worked at IACC, but he had been warned by IACC employees of what he was capable of doing. Rae also endured threats and vandalism during his short tenure at IACC. He received anonymous notes warning him to leave town. His automobile was vandalized by someone while parked at his home. His car's windshield was busted and dog food scattered over the hood.

I think critics have a valid point in criticizing Daniels' pardon of Quick. It's hard to put your finger on one single person in his administration responsible for his decision to pardon Quick. A former Goldsmith administration official who knew Quick quite well is Mitch Roob. Roob, of course, was responsible for the FSSA welfare privatization debacle that harmed many state employees, those dependent on welfare services and cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars during his tenure running that agency. Roob has also been at the center of the inflated job creation numbers controversy as the head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Roob, however, was not among those urging Daniels to pardon Quick--at least according to the public file. The parole board made up of his appointees certainly let him down. And his own counsel in the governor's office at the time, Mark Massa, didn't catch any problems with the pardon. The initial rushed pardon for Quick had to be redone after the governor's office mistakenly worded the pardon incorrectly by naming another criminal offender with the name "Stephen Quick" instead of "Steven Quick." Ultimately, the buck stops at the governor's desk whose signature appears on the pardon.

Ramos' point in his earlier reporting is hard to dismiss out of hand. Daniels' spokesperson, Jane Jankowski  suggested to Ramos that Quick's petition was perhaps the "strongest case" for granting a pardon. The parole board's Vice-Chairman Randy Gentry told me that the board recommends pardons in a very small percentage of the petitions filed each year with only a small percentage of those cases ultimately gaining the governor's approval. As an attorney, I recognize that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but the facts of his conviction for the strong-armed robbery case in my opinion would never warrant the extraordinary grant of a gubernatorial pardon regardless of what he had done with his life after being released from prison. "Quick and the governor have a unique relationship," Ramos wrote in his 2007 story. "Daniels abruptly canceled contracts covering 25,000 state employees his first day on the job." "Then, Daniels pardons Quick." Ramos ended, "Apologies to my college Latin instructor: could this be a "Quick Pro Quo?"  Match that with George Will's laudatory statements in his introduction of him at CPAC last week: "Daniels has practiced the lean government he preaches. Under him, Indiana has its fewest state employees since 1978, the nation's lowest state government employment per capital." In that regard, Daniels has been more successful than almost any other governor in the nation in avoiding calamitous budget deficits. At the same time, it makes you wonder how one of his number one fans could be the AFCME union's president. I doubt Gov. Daniels will have to worry about Quick helping organize public employees to stage demonstrations at the State House like those being waged against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this past week.

The video below features an interview of Quick by Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams in which Quick praises Mayor Greg Ballard. Both Williams and Quick are convicted felons who received pardons for their past crimes. Williams was pardoned by President George W. Bush, while Quick received his pardon from Gov. Mitch Daniels. The video is a perfect example of how WCTY, the city-run public access channel, is blatantly used for political purposes.


Citizen Kane said...

The Ballard Administration - Gangsters on Parade.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Nobody told me when I was growing up if I wanted to get ahead in politics I needed to become a convicted felon first. Welcome to Indianapolis.

Unknown said...

Nice piece.

Bradley said...

Wow. Just when I think there is no way in hell things can be more corrupt in Indianapolis or in Indiana, you piece together another big story, Gary. It's disgusting. I used to want to get into politics because I was raised to be a decent person who was taught that if you are in government you are serving the people honestly and with integrity; but quite honestly I could not back-slap, kiss-ass, lie, cheat and steal like it seems almost all our politicians here do.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

And the sad part is, the republicans in Marion County are just as bad as any democrat.
They lie right to your face, do just the opposite as what they campaign for, and worry more about their little kingdoms than they do their constituents.

Monty Basking said...

You better believe it -- Quick is a very large, imposing man and he will literally get in someone's face and yell at them. Anyone who is on the receiving end of such a "discussion" is left with the definite impression that Quick is not someone to be taken lightly, and that he will do whatever he needs to do to get his way. "Bully" is a pretty good description of Steve Quick.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
guada210 said...

As an AFSCME member, from another Local, I really, really appreciate this story. Thanks for the wake up call.

guada210 said...

As an AFSCME member from another Local, I really really appreciate this eye opening entry. Keep up the revealing reporting.