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COA affirms perjury, misconduct convictions against children's caseworker

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that that a closed hearing on a juvenile proceeding was admissible as evidence in the perjury trial of an Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker.

In Gayle D. Edelen v. State of Indiana, No.26A01-1007-CR-362, Gayle Edelen claimed that her testimony in a closed juvenile proceeding should have been confidential. But the appeals court – citing Indiana Code sections 31-39-1-1(a)(1) and -2 – ruled that the testimony was admissible in Edelen’s perjury trial because it involved an adult charged with a crime.

Gibson Circuit Judge Jeffrey Meade ordered the closed hearing in November 2008 after attorney Lisa Moody filed a motion with his court for a change in placement for her client, M.D., a minor. Moody informed the court that after M.D. fled Life Choices, a placement facility in Evansville, she had been held for one month without a hearing at Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village of Vincennes (SIRYV), an emergency shelter. Judge Meade had ordered that M.D. should be taken to SIRYV when she was found, but his policy – consistent with Indiana Code Section 31-34-5-1 – was that M.D. should not be held more than 48 hours without a hearing.

Local law enforcement had found M.D. on October 9, 2008, and taken her to SIRYV. On October 17, Edelen asked fellow caseworker Amy Ellis to check on M.D., which she did. M.D. repeatedly asked Ellis the date of the next scheduled hearing, and Ellis told her she would check with Edelen. On November 5, M.D. contacted Moody to tell her she was still being held at SIRYV.

In the closed hearing, Moody asked Edelen if she had ever informed the court that M.D. had been found. Edelen said that she had told Judge Meade on October 9 when he was walking out of chambers – a claim the judge would later contradict during Edelen’s jury trial.

The Indiana Office of the Inspector General launched an investigation of M.D.’s 30-day stay at the emergency shelter. As a result of the investigation, the state filed information against Edelen in Gibson Superior Court, alleging that she had committed three acts of perjury at the November 2008 hearing and an additional act of official misconduct for committing her alleged perjury while testifying in her official capacity.

During her jury trial in June 2010, Judge Meade said Edelen had never informed him M.D. had been found after fleeing Life Choices. He also expressly contradicted her testimony on two other occasions.

The Court of Appeals also cited Indiana Code Section 35-44-1-2(1) in affirming Edelen’s conviction for misconduct, stating she knowingly made a false statement under oath.
 

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