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Marion County prosecutor discusses his first days in office

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To lead any large law firm, a managing partner needs a diverse set of skills. He needs to understand budgets, crisis management, personnel issues, and how to interact with the media.

It’s essentially the same for the prosecutor of Indiana’s largest county.

During his first days in office, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who was sworn into office at midnight on Jan. 1, has faced some unique and sensitive issues.

On Jan. 2, a deputy prosecutor was arrested on charges of battery with injury and criminal trespass. She was later fired.

On Jan. 12, Curry re-filed charges in a high-profile case involving Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer David Bisard. According to the re-filed charges, Bisard’s blood alcohol content was at least .15 percent when his police car hit a group of motorcyclists, killing one and injuring two others.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi did not include the alcohol-related charges in his filing because he said the blood draw was not done according to IMPD procedures because the facility that did the blood draw was not certified.
 

curry-terryw-15col Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, a former deputy prosecutor and former defense attorney, took office at midnight Jan. 1. He started his transition to the prosecutor’s office immediately following his victory in the Nov. 2, 2010, election. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Curry told Indiana Lawyer the facility did have a written protocol prepared by a physician for blood draws, which is one requirement for them to be considered valid. He also conferred with deputy prosecutors to learn more about the circumstances of the blood draw, and found there was a valid argument to be made to include those results in the charges.

Curry and his opponent in the race for prosecutor, Mark Massa, each said if elected they would re-file the charges to include the alcohol-related charges.

On Jan. 27, Curry filed charges against a man accused of shooting IMPD Officer David Moore, 29, during a traffic stop Jan. 23. Moore died Jan. 26. Moore’s funeral has been one of the toughest things Curry has had to face in his term so far.

“It was exceedingly emotional,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about Jo and Spencer Moore and the dignity they showed given the circumstances that, at least to me, are incomprehensible.”

Curry explained that the prosecutor’s office has been forthcoming with the media about these and other cases it is handling as part of his effort to make the office more transparent and restore confidence.

“The single biggest challenge for the new prosecutor of this office, whether I or my opponent Mark Massa would have won the election, is restoring trust and confidence in this office,” he said. “Part of that is to make sure the public knows what our office does, including our successes, on a daily basis.”

Curry began work with his transition team as soon as he was elected Nov. 2. He worked with attorneys and former members of the office to interview every employee in the office.

Curry’s previous professional experience includes time spent in the prosecutor’s office from 1982 to 1984 and again from 1989 to 1992. He worked for Sommer Barnard, now Taft Stettinius & Hollister from 1978 to 1982, 1984 to 1989, and from 2002 to 2005. He also worked for Butler Schembs Curry & Jones from 1992 to 2002. After he left private practice in 2005, he went to work as a mediator for Van Winkle Baten & Rimstidt Dispute Resolution.

Today, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office employs 175 attorneys and 190 professional staff, according to Lara Beck, the office’s interim public information officer. If the prosecutor’s office was a private firm, it would rank as the fourth largest law firm in the city of Indianapolis.

The transition team also considered the best ways to budget for the office, what practice areas within the office could be beefed up or pared down, and Curry participated in an orientation by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council with about 30 other new county prosecutors from around the state.

Linda Pence of Pence Hensel, a former colleague of Curry’s, worked with him on his transition. Pence is also representing the Wells family, victims in the Bisard case.

“First of all, we all know for our community that it is a very significant position,” Pence said. “The prosecutor has enormous powers and authority, so we want someone who’s competent, thoughtful, and has good judgment. I was thrilled when he was elected because he has those characteristics.”

Pence said Curry didn’t waste any time getting started.

“He wanted to hit the ground running,” she said. “When he was sworn in, he already had a game plan, which was very impressive. In all the meetings, he knew where he would go, how to improve, how to reorganize. He wasn’t just meeting people, he had a game plan.”

Steve Johnson, IPAC executive director, said he was not surprised that Curry evaluated the staff who worked for his predecessor.

“For the larger counties, when there’s a shift in political parties and when a new prosecutor isn’t moving into the job directly from a chief deputy prosecutor position, the new prosecutor will have to evaluate all of their staff. This is especially true in a large office where you want to have confidence in your supervisors. In some counties where there are only two or three people in the prosecutor’s office, it’s different. But in Marion County, while Terry could oversee some cases, he can’t supervise everything that’s going on.”

Curry said he and the transition team spent time considering how to best use the human resources they have. Among his focuses are the major felony unit, white collar crimes, and political corruption. He also intends to beef up the Community Prosecution Division, providing more interaction with neighborhood associations, faith-based groups, and the police who regularly interact with residents.

Because he had trial experience prior to taking office, Curry said he plans to actively work on some cases. But he also said as prosecutor it’s his job to be hands on with other cases, and he will be a sounding board for the deputy prosecutors who have questions concerning cases they are handling.

While fielding candidates for open positions, Curry said he noticed many applicants were highly qualified, likely due to the tough job market. He said he had a stack of resumes many inches high, and he got his first call asking for a job the morning after he was elected.

Early in the transition, Curry reached out to leaders at IMPD and in the sheriff’s office, as well as state police, the secretary of state’s office, the U.S. attorney, and federal investigative agencies to foster a better working relationship.

“In the first 30 days there were a lot of high-profile things going on, but that’s not unusual,” Pence said. “When you walk into a prosecutor’s office like this one, you shouldn’t be surprised. As you can tell, he has a very calm demeanor and sound judgment. In all of those situations, he went in and analyzed them, no emotion; he considered what does the law say, what are the facts. … When you have that training, you just know how to handle it.”•

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

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