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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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