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Federal judge orders new trial in felony gun possession case

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Finding the interests of justice require a new trial for a man convicted of a federal gun crime in which the government withheld potentially exculpatory evidence, Judge William T. Lawrence granted his request Wednesday in the Southern District of Indiana Terre Haute division.

Donald Bickel of Jasonville was convicted in November after authorities obtained a search warrant for his home but then watched and waited as someone left and drove to the woods in Bickel’s truck. Officers didn’t confirm Bickel’s identity as they watched, though, and waited another 12 hours before executing the warrant.

Lawrence vacated Bickel’s conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition by a felon and granted his motion for a new trial. He ruled that the government failed to disclose the period of surveillance and it suppressed Norman Arthur Pilant’s statement that he was the owners of guns and ammunition for which Bickel was charged. Pilant also claimed he was driving Bickel’s truck as police watched.

“The Court now finds that the cumulative effect of the Government’s failure to disclose the period of police surveillance prior to Bickel’s arrest and the recorded statement made by Norman Arthur Pilant at the scene of Bickel’s arrest prior to trial, jeopardized the substantial rights of the Defendant,” Lawrence wrote.

Chief Federal Defender Monica Foster of Indiana Federal Community Defenders Inc. praised federal defender Joseph Cleary for getting the conviction vacated.

“This case sends a clear message that prosecutorial misconduct will not be tolerated by the federal courts,” Foster said in a statement. “We have been concerned about the United States Attorney’s discovery policies in the recent past and this case demonstrates those concerns have merit. Our justice system is built on the premise that the Government plays fair and we continue our commitment to making sure they do.”
 

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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