A Hancock County deputy prosecutor has received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court for surrendering prosecutorial discretion and allowing a corporate check fraud victim to dictate the terms of restitution as a pre-condition to a plea agreement.
The court ruled Thursday in the disciplinary action, In the Matter of Nancy J. Flatt-Moore, No. 30S00-0911-DI-535, out of Hancock County. Nancy J. Flatt-Moore was hired in 2007 as a deputy prosecutor and assigned to prosecute a check fraud case, utilizing a newly elected prosecutor’s policy of getting police and victim approval on felony plea agreements. But the policy didn’t allow victims to set the terms of conditions, as happened here.
Flatt-Moore offered a plea agreement allowing the defendant to plead guilty to the Class D felony check fraud charge but receive a Class A misdemeanor sentence, on the condition that the attorney agree to whatever terms and amounts the company Big Rivers was demanding,
The court found she violated Rule 8.4(d) prohibiting attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by permitting the company to use the criminal case as leverage in a separate civil suit against the same person.
“This is not to suggest that prosecutors may not allow crime victims to have substantial and meaningful input into plea agreements offered to the offenders at whose hands they suffered,” the court decision says. “If a prosecutor puts the conditions for resolving similar crimes entirely in the hands of the victims, defendants whose victims are unreasonable or vindictive cannot receive the same consideration as defendants whose victims are reasonable in their demands. At the very least, such a practice gives the appearance that resolution of criminal charges could turn on the whims of victims rather than the equities of each case.”
Justices disagreed with Flatt-Moore’s argument that disciplining a deputy prosecutor based on the acts of prosecutorial discretion violates separation of powers. The court cited its own precedent to find attorneys must follow the professional conduct rules in handling plea bargaining and other acts involving prosecutorial discretion.