Saturday, September 13, 2014

Inmate Taken From County Jail To Help Move Junk Furniture From Clark Co. Judge's Rental Property

A Clark Co. circuit court judge whose handling of a local drug court has been under scrutiny by state judicial officials is back in the news. The News & Tribune is reporting that an inmate at the Clark Co. jail was removed from the facility and taken to a rental property owned by Judge Jerry Jacobi where he helped removed junk furniture left behind by a former tenant. A community service coordinator, Joe Renck, was authorized to remove the inmate from the jail by the chief deputy in the sheriff's department, Brian Meyer, to help move the furniture from Jacobi's rental property. Renck says he was asked by Judge Jacobi to remove the furniture.

Renck defended the use of an inmate to perform personal work for Judge Jacobi, noting that he used his own personal vehicle to move the furniture. Renck said he returned the inmate to the jail after he helped load the furniture items in his vehicle before he transported them to a half-way house. Renck didn't believe there was any favorable treatment given to Judge Jacobi since he was donating the items to a nonprofit organization.  “Jacobi don’t know anything. He just asked me if I would get the stuff. He has no idea who went with me or nothing. The judge don’t know that I used [the inmate],” Renck said. “[Jacobi] just asked me, just as a friend.” Renck claimed he wasn't on duty at the time, although the News & Tribune reported that he turned in hours worked for that day, which he says was to make up hours from the Labor Day weekend. Judge Jacobi hung up the telephone when a reporter for the News & Tribune attempted to reach him to get his comment on the matter.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Brian Meyer, who has been acting as sheriff since Sheriff Danny Rodden was indicted by federal prosecutors concerning his relationship with a prostitute, defended Renck's actions, although he said he was unaware the inmate was going to be used to remove furniture from Judge Jacobi's rental property. Judge Dab Moore, who had authorized the inmate's transfer into the community corrections program saw it differently because Renck lacked any arrest powers. “How he [the inmate] gets released to do moving business is not within any definition of community service that I’ve ever heard. It’s a real safety risk, because if he decided to take off and run, Mr. Renck can’t chase him and he doesn’t have any authority to stop him. It’s a bad situation.” Meyer didn't see the issue of flight as an issue, noting that the inmate had been allowed to wash cars on county property while unsupervised for the past several months.

The Indiana Judicial Center suspended the Clark Co. drug treatment court Judge Jacobi oversees earlier this year after it was learned that drug court participants were jailed for months without cause and subjected to unauthorized searches and arrests by the drug court. Lawsuits have been filed against the court for violating drug court participant's constitutional rights, which have been certified for class action status. The Indiana Judicial Center removed current drug court participants from Judge Jacobi's supervision.

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