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Special prosecutor sought in Clark County Drug Court matter

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Problems in a southern Indiana drug court – including the jailing of multiple people for months without due process – have led to a formal request for a special prosecutor.

Clark County Prosecutor Steven D. Stewart Tuesday requested appointment of a special prosecutor “to avoid the appearance of impropriety during any further investigation and prosecution of this case, if any,” in the case unfolding in Jeffersonville.

Stewart petitioned Clark Circuit No. 3 Judge Joseph Weber to make the appointment. “Indiana State Police … opened an investigation relating to allegations of abuses by officers and employees of the Clark Circuit Court No. 2 Drug Court, including allegations which may constitute crimes under Indiana law,” Stewart’s petition said.

Clark Circuit No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi oversees drug treatment court. Jacobi did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

At least six drug court participants appear to have been jailed either without representation of an attorney or a hearing, according to IL research and attorneys familiar with the cases. Destiny Hoffman’s detention came to light last week after a deputy prosecutor discovered during a review of case files that Hoffman had been jailed more than 150 days after Jacobi had ordered her detained for 48 hours for providing a diluted drug screen.

The deputy prosecutor also turned up at least two other cases in which drug court participants had been ordered jailed pending placement in a treatment facility or as a 48- to 72-hour sanction for a violation, but wound up spending months behind bars.

Charges against Hoffman and at least two others were dropped after the detentions were discovered.

Louisville attorney Michael Augustus said Tuesday he is representing at least five people who claim civil rights violations connected to the alleged drug court abuses.

In addition to improper detentions, current and former drug court staff members have been accused of unauthorized arrests and searches of drug court participants. Jacobi recently fired drug court director Susan Knoebel and suspended a drug court staff member, both of whom were accused of carrying out the arrests and searches. Knoebel told the News and Tribune of Jeffersonville she was acting on Jacobi’s orders.
 
Watch for more on the Clark County Drug Court in the Feb. 12
Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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