Editor's note: This story has been updated
Elected Johnson County prosecutor Bradley D. Cooper pleaded guilty Monday to felony and misdemeanor charges, including criminal confinement and domestic battery. A plea agreement calls for him to serve 540 days of probation.
Cooper, 51, immediately pleaded guilty to criminal confinement, identity deception and official misconduct, all as Level 6 felonies, and Class A misdemeanor domestic battery before a special judge in Hancock County. The charges stem from an Indiana State Police criminal investigation prompted after Cooper’s fiancée reportedly fled from his home last month.
The incident began on the evening of March 4, when the Johnson County Sheriff's Department responded to a call and subsequently requested that ISP assume the investigation upon discovering the allegations were posed against an elected official.
Cooper, who has served as the Johnson County prosecutor since 2009, allegedly struck his fiancée, causing her bodily injury, and confined her without consent, charging information states. He also allegedly pretended to be his fiancée in electronic messages sent to someone else and committed official misconduct by committing identity deception during a criminal investigation of domestic battery within his judicial circuit and in Johnson County.
According to a signed plea agreement, each charge called for a sentence of supervised probation. Cooper will serve 540 days of supervised probation in place of time served in jail, if the judge accepts the plea.
The agreement says Cooper acknowledged he would be removed from his elected public office as a result of the convictions pursuant to Indiana law. It also acknowledges that statements he made to television media immediately following the incident were untrue.
After conferring with the victim, who is identified in court documents only as E.C., the sentencing hearing will take place 90 days after the guilty plea to encourage Cooper’s current treatment plan, the agreement states. A sentencing date for Cooper has been scheduled for July in Hancock County.
Cooper appeared before Special Judge Dan E. Marshall in Hancock Superior Court II, with special prosecutor Doug Brown, who is chief deputy prosecutor of Decatur County, presenting the allegations to the court. Had Cooper not pleaded guilty, grand jury proceedings would have begun Tuesday in Johnson Circuit Court.
“When things get tough, you toughen up, and that is exactly what the victim did in this investigation,” Brown said in a statement. “Her grace and resolve have been inspiring. The plea agreement accomplishes her desire for privacy, healing, and moving forward.”
Brown also said the proposed plea agreement accomplishes the state’s interest in justice and that the Indiana State Police should be commended for their efforts in conducting the investigation.
In the same press release, the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, said justice was served and that she hopes Cooper will “come out on the other side a better human being.”
“I forgive him,” E.C. said. “Afterall, he is human just like you and me. I have faith that God is working behind the scenes to turn this nightmare into something good.”
Cooper has found himself in trouble before, including trouble with the Indiana Supreme Court.
Supreme Court justices publicly reprimanded Cooper in March 2017 after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brought a formal complaint against Cooper for comments attributed to him in articles published by the Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press.
Cooper was accused of violating professional conduct rules and faced professional sanctions after he texted comments to the Indianapolis Star expressing his frustration with a St. Joseph Superior Court judge, who granted post-conviction relief to a convicted murderer in a case Cooper prosecuted.
The case dealt with the 1997 death of Kelly Eckart after her body was discovered in a ravine near Camp Atterbury in Brown County. She had been abducted, raped and murdered, and Michael Overstreet was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000.
But in response to an IndyStar question about the judge’s finding that Overstreet was incompetent to be executed, the prosecutor sent a text reading, in part, “I was angry and suspicious when this case was sent to a distant judge who is not accountable to the Johnson County citizenry or a grieving mother who couldn’t even afford to drive up for the hearing.”
Cooper also made statements to the AP stating in part: “…it didn’t surprise me that she didn’t want to create the headache for herself by keeping with this case … I think the idea that this rapist murderer is basically too sick to be executed is ridiculous.”
Also in 2011, Cooper was the the subject of a complaint and report sent to the commission after he was found drinking in a vehicle being driven by a suspended Franklin police officer. According to Daily Journal coverage, both men were outside the home of a sheriff’s deputy, looking for a woman that Cooper wanted a relationship with. However, no action was taken against him.
It’s unclear whether Cooper was removed from office upon pleading guilty or if he will be removed upon a court accepting the plea agreement, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council told Indiana Lawyer. The special judge has taken the plea under advisement.
IPAC noted it could only find one other instance of a sitting prosecutor being charged with a felony. That traces back to the 1996 suspension of Knox County prosecutor Bradley J. Catt.
The future of Cooper’s law license is also unclear. Online court records do not list an attorney for Cooper, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case in Johnson Circuit Court is State of Indiana v. Bradley D. Cooper, 41C01-1904-F6-000221.