A suspended LaPorte Superior judge has been acquitted of any criminal charges involving an accidental shooting where her
head was grazed by a bullet and led to accusations that she tried to cover up details about what happened.
But three judicial misconduct charges remain pending against Judge Jennifer Evans-Koethe. In a response to the Indiana Commission
on Judicial Qualifications, she denies intentionally trying to cover up evidence and blames her head wound for affecting her
memory and what she said immediately after the Dec. 22, 2008, incident.
Judge Koethe was a judge-elect when she was shot in the head in her home, shortly before taking the bench in January 2009.
At the time of the incident, there were discrepancies as to how the judge was shot. Judge Koethe originally told authorities
she accidentally shot herself and didn't know where the gun was located. She later told a detective at the hospital she
put the gun to her head to scare her husband but didn't know it was loaded when it fired.
She also told a detective she wrote a note to her husband and asked him to get rid of it. That request led to a grand jury
indictment. As a result, Koethe faced criminal charges of felony attempted obstruction of justice. The trial was transferred
to Lake Superior Court, and a jury found her not guilty Jan. 5.
Even with the not-guilty finding the judge, who's been suspended since May 11, still faces judicial discipline charges
that could lead to a reprimand, unpaid suspension, or possibly removal from the bench. The Indiana Commission on Judicial
Qualifications filed charges against her in December, accusing her of deliberately withholding or misrepresenting pertinent
information during taped statements and violating professional conduct rules by asking a police officer to destroy potential
In her response Jan. 8, the judge denies being asked about the whereabouts of her handgun when police came to her home in
response to the shooting, and said she had no recollection of being questioned there. At trial, a police officer testified
that both she and her husband said they "didn't know" where the gun was, although it was later found hidden
in a laundry basket in a bedroom closet.
"However, she has been informed and believes, and therefore admits, that she spoke such words as those attributed to
her," her response says.
The response also denies deliberately omitting disclosure of the note in a recorded statement.
James Fenton, the Fort Wayne attorney representing her on the discipline charges, could not be reached for comment prior
to deadline for this story.
The Indiana Supreme Court will appoint three special masters by mid-February to hear the evidence and submit a report to
the justices for consideration on what, if any, discipline should be imposed. Justices have final say on that.