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Contempt conviction for failure to testify affirmed

May 31, 2013

A woman who refused to answer questions about another criminal defendant after she was granted immunity was not wrongly convicted of contempt of court, an appellate panel ruled Friday.

Christie Wilson was found in contempt of court and sentenced to 180 days in prison after she refused to answer questions about Nathan Schultz, who had been charged with two counts of burglary and 18 counts of theft. Related to those charges, Wilson pleaded guilty to Class D felony theft and receiving stolen property, and several other counts were dropped.

The Washington Superior Court issued Wilson a grant of immunity in exchange for her testimony regarding Schultz’s criminal case. At a deposition, she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights regarding questions about Schultz’s alleged crimes.

The Court of Appeals rejected Wilson’s claim that “it appears to be a matter of first impression whether Indiana’s Constitution Section 14 provides greater protection than the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment in matters relating to compelled testimony through orders of use immunity.”

In Christie Wilson v. State of Indiana, 88A01-1301-CR-2, Wilson argued that the Indiana Constitution entitled her to transactional immunity barring the state from prosecuting her for any transaction concerning that to which she testified.

The justices affirmed in part based on In re Caito 459 N.E.2d 1179, 1182 (Ind. 1984), which was decided about twenty years ago.

 “We cannot say that the Indiana Constitution requires transactional immunity or that the trial court’s finding of contempt was an abuse of discretion,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court. “We affirm the trial court’s finding of contempt.”






 

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