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Judges uphold theft charge against man

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On interlocutory appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a man’s motion to dismiss his theft charge in Jay County because he caused the delay in the case by absconding. The case brought up the issue of whether knowledge by jail officials on the whereabouts of the defendant can mean that the judge and prosecutor were sufficiently notified.

George Feuston was arrested in Jay County and charged with Class D felony theft on May 3, 2009. While out on bond, he didn’t appear for his pretrial conference and was arrested in Delaware County on an unrelated charge in August 2009. In August 2010, Feuston filed a motion requesting a discharge of his theft charge pursuant to Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) because more than a year had passed since he was arrested in Jay County. In an October 2010 motion, he attached a purported fax correspondence between the Delaware and Jay County jails showing that Jay County jail officials knew he was in the Delaware County jail, but there’s not chronological case summary entry in his Jay County case around the time the fax was sent.

The trial court denied his motion, concluding that he was responsible for all the delay from the time of his pre-trial hearing until August 2010 when he filed his motion.

In George A. Feuston v. State of Indiana, No. 38A02-1011-CR-1175, the judges affirmed the denial of his motion for discharge. The judges rejected his argument that his whereabouts is irrelevant because the trial court could set a trial date regardless of whether he is present, citing Schwartz v. State, 708 N.E.2d 34 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). But Schwartz says that when the record is silent as for the reason for the delay, it won’t be charged to the defendant.

Judge Terry Crone wrote that the court was not inclined to create duty on the trial courts that they must fill their calendars with “place holder” trial dates for defendants who haven’t appeared or whose whereabouts are unknown.

The judges also discussed the issue of whether the Jay County jail officials had knowledge of Feuston’s location based on the fax presented by Feuston. The majority concluded that knowledge of a police office or correctional officer shouldn’t be imputed to the trial court or prosecutor in these circumstances, citing State ex rel. Johnson v. Kohlmeyer, 261 Ind. 244, 303 N.E.2d 661 (Ind. 1973).
 
Feuston didn’t present any evidence that the trial court or prosecutor knew where he was before he filed his August 2010 motion, so he hasn’t shown he’s entitled to discharge. In addition, he does not have clean hands in the matter since the prosecutor and court lost track of him because he absconded, wrote Judge Crone.

Chief Judge Margret Robb concurred in result because she felt the majority hold was too broad. She wrote that if there was indisputable evidence that jail officials knew where Feuston was and that he was incarcerated in Delaware County, the trial court and prosecutor were sufficiently notified of his whereabouts to begin the Rule 4(C) clock running as of that date.

But in this case, there is only evidence suggesting that the Jay County Jail became aware of his incarceration and the burden is on Feuston to support his claims, which he did not do, she wrote.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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