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Ex-prosecutor gets 4-month suspension

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Former Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney has been suspended for 120 days, the Indiana Supreme Court announced Thursday. The suspension begins July 28, with automatic reinstatement upon its conclusion, subject to the conditions of Admission and Discipline Rule 23(4)(c).

In issuing its opinion on In The Matter of Mark R. McKinney, No. 18S00-0905-DI-220, the court held that McKinney created a conflict of interest by simultaneously prosecuting drug offender cases while pocketing assets seized from defendants in those cases.

McKinney was a Delaware County deputy prosecutor from 1995 until he became the county’s prosecutor in 2007. McKinney worked in conjunction with the now-defunct Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force to bring drug-related criminal cases to court. In 1995 and 2004, McKinney and former Delaware County Prosecutor Richard Reed entered into written fee agreements that guaranteed McKinney 25 percent of any civil forfeiture action that he brought, under a statute currently codified at Indiana Code 34-24-1-1, et seq.

The disciplinary action said Reed had contemplated the same deputy prosecutor should handle both the criminal case and the associated forfeiture case, and he concluded the criminal case would end before any resolution of the forfeiture case. Otherwise, the costs associated with the criminal case would not be known. But the justices stated that in many instances, criminal cases were open while related civil forfeiture actions were also open. McKinney also, at times, engaged in plea agreement negotiations knowing that he would receive compensation as the result of an action.

Beginning in 2002, McKinney used what he called Confidential Settlement Agreements to transfer seized property, including cash, from criminal defendants to the city of Muncie through private agreement by the parties without court supervision or public disclosure. He then invoiced the city of Muncie and collected 25 percent of the money transferred, which he based on his interpretation of the fee agreements he had created with Reed. In some instances, McKinney was engaged in CSA negotiations while the corresponding criminal cases were open.

 “Although there is no evidence in this case that Respondent made any explicit quid pro quo offer of favorable treatment to any criminal defendant in exchange for the forfeiture of property from which Respondent would be compensated, it would doubtless be evident to such a defendant, and to his or her attorney if represented, that prosecutorial discretion in how to proceed with the criminal case was held by one who stood to reap personal financial gain if the defendant agreed to the forfeiture of his or her assets. Respondent's misconduct created an environment in which, at the very least, the public trust in his ability to faithfully and independently represent the interests of the State was compromised,” the justices wrote.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David did not participate in the Supreme Court’s deliberations. Justice David was a Boone Circuit judge when he served as hearing officer in McKinney’s disciplinary case that began in December 2009. In 2010, he recommended a public reprimand as suitable punishment for McKinney.

The Supreme Court found McKinney in violation of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.7(b), 1.7(b)(2), 1.8(1), and 8.4(d).

Justice Robert Rucker dissented with the sanction imposed by the court, preferring a public reprimand, but otherwise concurred with the majority’s findings.
 

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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

  3. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Far too many people are sentenced for far too many years in prison. Many of the federal prisoners are sentenced for marijuana violations. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  4. My daughter was married less than a week and her new hubbys picture was on tv for drugs and now I havent't seen my granddaughters since st patricks day. when my daughter left her marriage from her childrens Father she lived with me with my grand daughters and that was ok but I called her on the new hubby who is in jail and said didn't want this around my grandkids not unreasonable request and I get shut out for her mistake

  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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