Crawford Co. judge Bell arrested for allegedly battering ex-husband in front of kids, suspended with pay

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An embattled southern Indiana judge involved in a 2019 brawl-turned-shooting in Indianapolis was arrested Thursday on a felony charge for allegedly hitting her ex-husband in front of their children and has been suspended from the bench.

Crawford Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell was arrested for Level 6 felony domestic battery in the presence of a child less than 16 years old after detectives from the Indiana State Police Special Investigations Section presented an affidavit to Special Judge Nathan Verkamp of the Dubois Circuit Court.

Bell has since been released from the Crawford County Jail on pretrial conditions, ISP reported. 

According to the probable cause affidavit, deputies with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to Bell’s residence at 5:04 p.m. on April 12 regarding a domestic battery complaint.

At the scene, deputies spoke with Douglas A. Goerss, Bell’s ex-husband, who said he had gone to the residence to pick up their three children for his scheduled visit that evening, according to court documents.

Goerss told deputies that he and Bell got into an argument and that his ex-wife struck him in the neck/cheek area with her hand. Deputies observed marks on Goerss’ left side, and the Indiana Department of Child Services confirmed the incident was observed by two of the children, ages 12 and 8, according to the probable cause affidavit. Bell declined to make any statements regarding the matter with the deputies, it states.

Goerss himself is a lawyer, practicing in the Perry County Prosecutor’s Office, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. His LinkedIn profile indicates he is the chief deputy prosecuting attorney in that office.

Chris Lane of the Floyd County Prosecutor’s Office was assigned as special prosecutor to the case of State of Indiana v. Sabrina R. Bell, 13C01-2205-F6-000039.

Online court records do not list any contact information for Bell, nor do they list an attorney representing her.

Also on Thursday, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications opened a disciplinary case, 22S-JD-148, against Bell. The Indiana Supreme Court has issued an order in that case suspending Bell with pay effective immediately.

Bell, who was first elected in November 2016, announced on Facebook on April 20 that she wasn’t seeking reelection and was stepping down from her judicial post.

Also on Facebook, Bell acknowledged an incident had recently taken place and that law enforcement was involved.

In May 2019, Bell was one of three southern Indiana judges involved in an early-morning altercation at a White Castle restaurant in Indianapolis.

On that day, Bell, former Clark Circuit Court 1 Judge Andrew Adams and Clark Circuit Court 2 Judge Bradley Jacobs got into an altercation with Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vazquez. The argument became physical and both Jacobs and Adams were shot.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Bell and Jacobs for 30 days without pay for their roles in the shooting. Adams lost his election bid in 2020 and Jacobs ran unopposed that same year.

Adams was suspended for 60 days without pay and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. He was sentenced to one year, all suspended to probation.

Vazquez pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to home detention for 180 days and a year of probation while Kaiser, the alleged gunman, recently had his jury trial rescheduled to June 27.

Senior Judge Susan Orth is presiding over the Crawford Circuit Court as senior judge for 24 hours a day until further order of the court.

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