Three judges involved in Indianapolis shooting now face discipline

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Three judges involved in a May shooting in downtown Indianapolis are each now facing multiple judicial discipline charges.

Adams

Jacobs

Bell

Clark Circuit Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs and Crawford Circuit Judge Sabrina Bell each have been charged with violations of Rules 1.2 and 3.1(C) of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct for their roles in a violent May 1 altercation that left Adams and Jacobs hospitalized with serious gunshot wounds. Adams has also been charged with a violation of Rule 1.1 of the judicial code.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed the judicial discipline charges Friday morning. The Statements of Charges provide details on what happened during the evening of April 30 and the early morning of May 1 – details that up to this point have been closely guarded.

The three judges all traveled to Indianapolis from their southern Indiana jurisdictions on April 30 for the Spring Judicial Conference, which was held May 1-3. Bell drove to Clark County and made the trip north with Clark Circuit Magistrate Judge William Dawkins.

After checking into their hotels, the judges began a night of socializing and bar hopping. Jacobs and Bell both began their evenings in the hotel lobby, where Jacobs drank a scotch and Bell had two Seagram’s Escapes.

From there, Jacobs met with other judges at a nearby restaurant before moving to a third location, Ram Restaurant & Brewery, where he had “several beers.” Bell and Dawkins also moved to another restaurant after stopping in the hotel lobby, and Bell had wine with dinner.

Adams joined Bell and Dawkins at around 10 p.m. Some of their group returned to the hotel, but a group including Adams, Bell and Dawkins moved on to the Claddagh Irish Pub. Adams had several beers at the pub, while Bell had several cocktails.

Meanwhile, Jacobs was now at the Howl at the Moon bar, where he stayed until at least 10:17 p.m. He returned to the hotel but went back out when Dawkins informed him that Adams had arrived.

At about 11 p.m., Adams, Bell and Dawkins were the only members of the judicial group still at the pub. They moved on to Brothers Bar & Grill around midnight, and Jacobs joined them there at around 12:30 a.m. According to the JQC filings, “the group continued to drink alcoholic beverages, socialized, and played darts and cornhole until approximately 3:00 a.m.”

“At around 3:00 a.m., Judge Jacobs, Judge Adams, Judge Bell, and Magistrate Dawkins walked to The Red Garter Gentlemen’s Club and attempted to go in, but the club was already closed,” the filings say. The judges’ presence at The Red Garter has been a point of confusion since the shootings, with law enforcement initially saying it was true but later recanting those statements. Clark County Presiding Judge Vicki Carmichael has likewise eluded that their presence at the gentlemen’s club was not certain, advising media on May 1 to beware of certain “inaccurate” reports.

At about 3:15, the judicial officers walked to the nearby White Castle restaurant, and Dawkins went inside. Surveillance footage from the White Castle shows a woman standing with Adams and Jacobs outside the restaurant, though until now her identity has never been confirmed.

“Outside the restaurant, Judge Adams, Judge Jacobs, and Judge Bell behaved in an injudicious manner,” the JQC wrote.

An SUV driven by Alfredo Vazquez then arrived on the scene, and Vazquez and his passenger, Brandon Kaiser, “yelled something out the window which drew the attention of the judges … .” Bell gave the men the finger, and Vazquez and Kaiser then pulled into the White Castle parking lot and got out of the car.

“A heated verbal altercation occurred between the judges’ group (Judge Adams, Judge Bell, and Judge Jacobs) and Vazquez and Kaiser, with all participants yelling (including using profanity) and making dismissive, mocking, or insolent gestures toward the other group,” the JQC wrote. In the filings against Bell and Jacobs, the commission notes neither judge attempted to leave the scene or de-escalate the situation, while Bell “continued to provoke communication with the two men.”

A fight ensued between the four men, with Adams primarily fighting Vazquez and Jacobs primarily fighting Kaiser. At one point, Jacobs was on top of Kaiser, and he eventually remarked, with his fists raised, “Okay, okay, we’re done, we’re done,” or, “This is over. Tell me this is over.”

As Jacobs began to get off Kaiser, Vazquez began fighting him. Meanwhile, as Kaiser tried to get up, Adams kicked him in the back.

“Kaiser pulled out a gun and shot Judge Adams in the stomach region,” the filings say. “He then went over to Judge Jacobs and Vazquez and fired two more shots at Judge Jacobs in the chest.”

Kaiser and Vazquez left the scene after shots were fired. Jacobs was hospitalized at Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition, while Adams was admitted at Methodist Hospital in stable condition.

Jacobs’ blood alcohol level was tested, using serum blood, at 0.177, while Adams’ was 0.213. The legal limit is 0.08.

Bell and Dawkins gave statements to police at the scene of the shooting, then later gave recorded statements at the police station. Bell gave another recorded statement in the ensuing weeks.

“In her recorded statement(s) to the police, Judge Bell asserted that she does not remember what she said to Vazquez and/or Kaiser or what started the physical altercations. … However, while on the scene, the media videotaped Judge Bell telling police detectives, in an excited state, ‘I feel like this is all my fault’ or words to that effect.

“… Additionally, after being informed during her recorded statement that police detectives had retrieved video of the incident, Judge Bell made the following remarks: 1) ‘I’m afraid that I said something to them first, I don’t know.’ 2) ‘[W]e’re all very good friends and they’re very protective of me. And I don’t know, and I’m afraid that I said something to those two strange men at first, and then they said something back to me. And then I said something and then those two went to defend me.’ 3) ‘I’m not denying that I said something or egged it on … because I drink … I mean I fully acknowledge that I drink and get mouthy, and I’m fiery and I’m feisty, but if I would have ever thought for a second that they were gonna fight or that that guy had a gun on him, I would never, never … .’”

After grand jury proceedings, Adams, Kaiser and Vazquez were all indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges, though Jacobs was not indicted. Adams pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor battery against Kaiser, and he received a one-year suspended sentence with no probation.

For all three judges, the commission wrote that they “appeared in public in an intoxicated state … and behaved in an injudicious manner that reflected poorly on the judiciary.” Through this conduct, the JQC wrote, the judges “violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, and Rule 3.1(C) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to not participate in extrajudicial activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s integrity, independence, or impartiality.”

Adams’ charge under Rule 1.1 stems from his indictment and conviction on the misdemeanor battery charge. The rule “requires a judge to respect and comply with the law… .”

Adams has been suspended from the Clark Circuit Court 1 bench since his June 28 indictment, though after his guilty plea he moved for reinstatement. Jacobs was temporarily off the bench during his recovery but returned to Clark Circuit Court 2 in July.

Bell is the only Crawford County judge.

Adams is being represented by Indianapolis attorneys Jim Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer, while Jacobs is being represented by Jeffersonville attorney Larry Wilder. Bell is not currently represented by counsel.

Wilder, in an email to Indiana Lawyer, said, “It would be inappropriate for us to make any comment at this time.” Voyles likewise said he could not comment. Bell did not respond to an IL inquiry.

The cases are In The Matter of The Honorable Andrew Adams, Clark Circuit Court 1, 19S-JD-386, In The Matter of The Honorable Sabrina R. Bell, Crawford Circuit Court, 19S-JD-567, and In The Matter of The Honorable Bradley B. Jacobs, Clark Circuit Court 2, 19S-JD-566.

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