Defendant in judges shooting case seeks jurists’ cellphone, JQC communications

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comment from the Indiana Supreme Court.

The man charged with shooting two Indiana judges is seeking to bolster his self-defense claim by asking for four judges’ cellphone records and their communications with the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission related to the incident for which three judges were briefly suspended after the commission investigated and filed disciplinary charges against them.

Brandon Kaiser faces multiple battery and other felony charges related to the shooting of Clark Circuit judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs in the parking lot of an Indianapolis White Castle restaurant early in the morning of May 1, 2019. Kaiser claims self-defense and has asserted in court filings that the judges, who were seriously wounded in Adams’ case and critically wounded in Jacobs’ case, were the aggressors. Both judges have since recovered and returned to the bench.

On Tuesday, Kaiser’s attorneys, Mario Massillamany and Erica Guernsey of Fishers, filed two motions in Kaiser’s criminal case requesting production from Adams and Jacobs as well as two other judges who were at the White Castle the morning of the shooting — Crawford Circuit Judge Sabrina Bell and Clark Circuit Magistrate Judge William Dawkins.

One motion seeks from each judge “all written and/or audio statements and/or emails provided by the named parties either directly, or indirectly through their attorneys, to the Judicial Qualifications Commission regarding the incident on or about May 1, 2019 or any events surrounding to or relevant to the incident.”

The other motion seeks from the judges records of “any and all phone calls made and received and any and all text messages made and received by the named parties” from 6 p.m. April 30 through 6 a.m. May 1, 2019. Massillamany declined to comment on the requests Tuesday.

Indianapolis defense attorney James Voyles, who has represented Adams, customarily declined to comment. Jeffersonville defense attorney Larry Wilder, who has represented Jacobs, said it would not be appropriate for the judge to comment on a criminal matter. Bell did not reply to an email seeking comment from her or her attorney.

Indiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said the court would not comment on Kaiser’s case.

“Guarding the integrity of the case so it can move forward in due course is paramount to ensuring a fair process in the criminal proceeding. It is inappropriate for the Supreme Court, the Office of Judicial Administration, or the Judicial Qualifications Commission to address questions related to the pending criminal matter,” she said in a statement.

“As previously stated, when the criminal matter is resolved, the Chief Justice intends to direct the Judicial Qualifications Commission to release the video. In the meantime, the focus remains on assuring that the proper administration of justice is being safeguarded.”

The motions filed Tuesday follow an unsuccessful effort by the defense to unseal grand jury evidence including surveillance video of the incident. The motion was opposed by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, and Marion Superior Criminal Division 2 Judge Shatrese Flowers denied the motion last week. 

Grand juries handed down formal charges against Kaiser and against Adams, who pleaded guilty to a battery count and was sentenced last September to 365 days, with 363 days suspended without probation and credit for two days served.

A grand jury also indicted Kaiser’s nephew, Alfredo Vazquez, who was involved in the violent confrontation. Vazquez pleaded guilty to a battery count and was sentenced to a year of probation.

The Indiana Supreme Court in November suspended Adams for 60 days and Jacobs and Bell for 30 days.  In doing so, the justices wrote in the order that the judges were at the White Castle “in a heavily intoxicated state” around 3:17 a.m. May 1, after unsuccessfully attempting to get into a nearby strip club that was closed. The judges were in Indianapolis for a statewide judicial conference that started a few hours later.

“When Judge Bell extended her middle finger to a passing vehicle, neither Judge Adams nor Judge Jacobs discouraged the provocation or removed themselves from the situation,” the court wrote in disciplining the judges. “Instead, all three Respondents joined in a profane verbal altercation that quickly turned into physical violence and ended in gunfire, and in doing so, gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana’s judiciary.”

Neither Bell nor Dawkins were injured in the incident, and Dawkins was not disciplined.

Meanwhile, Kaiser claims in his self-defense motion that he “did not provoke, instigate, or participate willingly in the violence of his assault and did not make physical contact with his attackers until it was necessary in order to protect himself” and that he was “justified in using reasonable force to protect himself because he was attacked by two men with military training while he was attempting to enter a fast food restaurant.”

The Indiana Supreme Court and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office have repeatedly declined IL requests to release the surveillance video evidence.

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