An appellate panel has affirmed the permanent protective order granted against a suspended Chicago television anchorman who threatened a Valparaiso woman he was romantically involved with. A concurring judge, however, disagreed that the man’s identity should be shielded from the public, writing separately to name the ex-anchor.
After becoming involved in a romantic relationship with J.W., who was married, nasty words were exchanged between Rafer Weigel, J.W. and another woman Weigel has previously dated, K.B.
K.B. was with Weigel after his relationship with J.W. soured, but when Weigel and J.W. were together, Weigel had shared with J.W. his plans to send a video of a nude K.B. to the man she was then dating. A part of the plan involved creating a new account on social media through which to reach that man at work, but J.W. counseled against Weigel’s plan.
As a result, Weigel left a threatening voicemail for J.W., which made J.W. feel threatened and terrified. Weigel further made several attempts by various means to contact J.W.’s husband, and semi-nude and nude pictures of J.W. from Weigel’s password protected phone were later exposed by K.B. The woman also created a fake Bumble account using pictures of J.W. that used disparaging language to portray her as having herpes and behaving “trashy or tramp-like.”
At the hearing on J.W.’s protective order request, Weigel refused to answer 32 separate questions pertaining mostly to how K.B. came into possession of the pictures of J.W. that were meant only for him and the creation and existence of the Bumble account, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
The Chicago Tribune reported in January that Weigel had been suspended from his job at Fox32 over the incident.
The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed the trial court’s denial of Rafer Weigel’s motion to dismiss J.W.’s granted petition for a permanent protective order against him in the case of R.W. v. J.W.,19A-PO-02697.
Specifically, the appellate court found that as a resident of Porter County, J.W. properly filed her petition with the trial court because Indiana Code section 34-26-5-4 (2002) gives a court of record jurisdiction to issue a civil order for protection in the county in which the petitioner currently or temporarily resides.
“Thus, the trial court correctly denied (Weigel)’s motion to dismiss the petition and correctly retained jurisdiction over the matter instead of transferring it to Illinois,” it concluded.
Moving to Weigel’s assertion that the trial court erred by finding and concluding that J.W. had established that an order of protection was necessary, the appellate court concluded that the trial court was correct in its decision.
“The trial court correctly found from the evidence and the inferences from the evidence that ‘there is no evidence that (Weigel) tried to stop or block [K.B.’s] harassment or stalking behavior utilizing or threatening to use the photos against [J.W.],’ and correctly concluded that ‘like [K.B.], (Weigel )was engaged in bringing harassment to bear on [J.W.]’ There was more than sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings of fact which, in turn, support the conclusions of law in favor of granting J.W.’s petition for a permanent protective order against (Weigel),” Senior Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote in the opinion joined by Judge Paul Mathias.
Writing in a separate concurring opinion, Judge Terry Crone agreed with affirming the protective order against Weigel but disagreed with the majority’s decision to refer to him in the opinion by his initials instead of his name.
“No statute, court rule, or court policy entitles Weigel to anonymity. In fact, pursuant to the Rules on Access to Court Records adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court, Weigel’s name is presumptively accessible to the public,” Crone wrote.
“As described in lurid detail above, Weigel threatened and publicly humiliated J.W., who sought and obtained a protective order against him. Weigel has challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting that order. If we had ruled in his favor, he could have petitioned to expunge all records relating to the protective order pursuant to Indiana Code Chapter 34-26-7.5. But since we have affirmed the trial court’s determination that Weigel harassed J.W., I can think of no principled reason why this Court should shield his identity from the public,” the judge continued.
“Indeed, naming the perpetrator of such depraved acts could only contribute to public safety, promote governmental transparency and accountability (by this Court and by any law enforcement agency that might have occasion to enforce the protective order, respectively), and prevent future harassment of J.W. and others.”