Details about judges shooting begin to emerge

Until the unsealing of three indictments June 28 regarding the early-morning shooting in downtown Indianapolis that seriously injured two judges, the public had received little information other than a murky video followed by the baffling arrest and release of two suspects.

adams-andrew-booking-mug.jpg Adams

A few more details were offered when Clark Circuit Judge Andrew Adams and Indianapolis residents Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vazquez were indicted by two separate grand juries convened to review the evidence from the shooting. Adams’ judicial colleague, Clark Circuit Judge Bradley Jacobs, was not indicted.

In announcing the charges, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry repeatedly described the case as complex. He hinted the difficulty arose from determining who in the fight was the aggressor and whether the response was reasonable.

“In situations where it appears to us that self-defense will be a potential issue, it’s not unprecedented that those are matters that we have presented to the grand jury in the past to let the grand jury sort it out because that is such a fact-sensitive subject,” Curry said. “Once we reviewed everything, as I said, we felt there was just any number of possible results or conclusions that could flow from a jury reviewing the evidence that was presented.”

kaiser-brandon-mug.jpg Kaiser

Kaiser was indicted on 14 counts, with the highest being four counts of Level 3 felony aggravated battery and two counts of Level 5 felony battery with a deadly weapon. For the Level 3 felony, the sentence ranges from three to 16 years, and the Level 5 felony carries a sentence between one and six years.

Vazquez and Adams were indicted on seven identical counts. The most severe are two counts of battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, a Level 6 felony. The sentence for this level felony is between six months and two-and-a-half years.

Also, Adams, who has been a judge since January 2015, was immediately suspended with pay from his judicial position by the Indiana Supreme Court shortly after the indictments were announced. The court cited Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 25 (V)(A), which calls for the suspension of the judicial officer upon the filing of an indictment or information charging the individual with a crime punishable as a felony.

vazquez-alfredo-mug Vazquez

Kaiser and Vazquez turned themselves in and had their initial court hearing July 2. A cash bond was entered in the clerk’s office for Kaiser and Vazquez was released on his own recognizance. Adams appeared for his initial hearing on July 3 and was released.

A jury trial for Kaiser and Vazquez has been scheduled for Aug. 12.

Two grand juries

Indianapolis attorney Gregory Spencer, who is representing Vazquez, said he respected the process Curry used to move the case to this point and noted he has seen situations involving “mutual combat” where the alleged aggressor and victim are both charged with the same crime, as his client and Adams have been.

Spencer said he and Vazquez were looking forward to analyzing the evidence that was reviewed by the grand jury.

“Ultimately, for Mr. Vazquez and his family, this is a little bit of a relief knowing this phase is over,” the attorney said. “Now, they know what they are dealing with and can deal with it head-on.”

Kaiser’s attorney, Bradley Banks of Banks and Brower, LLC, did not return a call requesting comment. Adams’ attorney, Jennifer Lukemeyer of Voyles Vaiana Lukemyer Baldwin & Webb, declined to speak to the Indiana Lawyer, and Larry Wilder, co-counsel, did not respond to a text message or an email.

For this case, the Marion County prosecutor made the rare decision to empanel a second grand jury June 7 in addition to the grand jury that is regularly empaneled. Also, the prosecutor granted use immunity to Adams, Jacobs, Kaiser and Vazquez solely for them to provide testimony for the proceeding in which they were the alleged victims.

Jacobs Jacobs

“In reviewing all the information and evidence that had been provided to us, it was our opinion that there were numerous significant legal and factual issues arising from this investigation,” Curry said. “Depending upon how those issues were resolved, it was possible for a variety of results, including the possibility that all four individuals involved in the incident could be charged with a crime.”

Video not enough

Adams and Jacobs, visiting the Circle City for the spring judicial conference, got into a fight with Kaiser and Vazquez about 3:30 a.m. May 1 at a White Castle restaurant near downtown. Adams was reported to have been shot in the stomach and Jacobs was reported to have been shot twice, including at least once in the chest. Both were transported to local hospitals, where they survived their injuries, and have since returned to their homes in Clark County to recuperate. Neither has resumed their duties on the bench. The Indiana Supreme Court appointed judges pro tem May 9 to preside in Adams’ and Jacobs’ courts until further notice.

Kaiser and Vazquez were arrested in connection with the incident May 7, but they were released about a week later after Curry declined to file charges. Initially, Kaiser was booked on suspicion of Level 1 felony attempted murder, while Vazquez was facing a Level 5 felony charge of assisting a criminal.

During the unsealing of the indictment, Curry acknowledged rumor and speculation grew around this case. But he maintained the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as the need to prevent witness accounts from being tainted, prohibited his office from releasing any information.

The prosecutor did publicize a segment of the surveillance video which showed Kaiser and Vazquez pull into the White Castle parking lot, then exit the vehicle and walk toward the restaurant’s door. That release was permissible because authorities were trying to identify the suspects, but Curry said in general, a video will never be conclusive by itself.

“It’s always the case there’s got to be something in addition to the videotape,” Curry said. “Even seeing the videotape doesn’t necessarily answer all the legal and factual issues that we have in any given case. That’s why it’s necessary for someone ultimately to sort it out.”

In Jeffersonville, the seat of Clark County, people are still curious and wondering about the events that led to the shooting and the indictments, said Rev. Nancy Woodworth-Hill of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Members of Clark County CARES (Community Addiction Resources Education & Support) have been especially concerned about the judges’ welfare, Woodworth-Hill said. Jacobs and Adams had worked closely with the grassroots drug recovery organization, providing introductions to other community-based treatment programs and helping develop new initiatives.

The indictment of Adams was a surprise but, the pastor said, the CARES group cannot spend time speculating about what happened in Indianapolis.

“They’ve been an important piece of this group,” Woodworth-Hill said of the judges and CARES. “We are missing them.”•

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