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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ind. Courts - "Carmel hazing case takes new turn: Decision whether to file charges is now Hendricks County's, not Hamilton's"

Robert Annis and Mark Ambrogi of the Indianapolis Star report today:

It will be up to Hendricks County rather than Hamilton County to file any charges against the Carmel High School basketball players suspected in an attack alleged to have taken place on a team bus, Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp said Friday.

That's because investigators have determined that the incident -- initially described as bullying or hazing but now under investigation for possible criminal charges -- occurred in Hendricks County as the team returned from a game in western Indiana the night of Jan. 22.

Leerkamp acknowledged that handing the case over to another prosecutor will prolong an investigation already in its fifth week and add to the public impatience and criticism over the way authorities have handled it. Carmel school and police officials have provided little information since disclosing in mid-February accusations that three seniors on the team had assaulted two younger players more than three weeks before.

Leerkamp said the Carmel police investigation is likely to last at least another week. Defending the length of the investigation, she said detectives are interviewing "lots of high school kids." * * *

It's relatively rare for two county prosecutors to work together on the same case, said Indiana University law Professor Joel Schumm.

"The Carmel police are used to working with the Hamilton County prosecutor, and I'm sure they work well together," Schumm said. "Hendricks County getting involved complicates things, so it may take a little longer. . . . It's important to try the case in the right place or else they might have to do everything over." * * *

Schumm said that once the case goes to Hendricks County Prosecutor Patricia Baldwin's office in Danville -- about 45 miles southwest of Carmel -- Hamilton County will have little if any say in what charges are filed.

Leerkamp agreed.

"If the (Hendricks County) prosecutor decided the charges had no merit, she would have the authority to dismiss the charges,'' Leerkamp said. "We want her to know from the inception what's there."

Bob Cook of the blog "Your Kid's Not Going Pro" has been following the Carmel incidents. Here is an entry from March 2, 2010.

On March 1st, in answer to a question from Cook about the pursuit of criminal charges in court, Prof. Schumm responded:

The prosecutor in the county where the crime occurred would need to seek an indictment before a grand jury or file an information and secure a probable cause determination from a judge in the county where the crime occurred. If charges were filed in Hamilton County but the crimes occurred somewhere else, the defendant would be entitled to a change of venue to the county where the crime occurred. If he had already been convicted, he would be entitled to a new trial in the proper county. (Here's an example of a recent venue case: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/11030902mpb.pdf )
The 18-page opinion cited concluded:
There is sufficient evidence that Neff committed Class C felony child solicitation. However, there is insufficient evidence that he committed that crime in Hamilton County. We reverse his conviction because of improper venue and remand with directions that this case be transferred to Madison County for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 20, 2010 10:49 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts