Also, Lawrence water utility investigation launched

Criminal charges against Jason Snider, a legally blind man injured in a May encounter with Indianapolis Police Department officers (“Legally Blind Man Alleges Police Beating,” Dispatch, Sep. 3, 2003), have been dismissed by a Marion County Superior Court. Snider and other witnesses maintain that he was punched, kicked and maced by the IPD officers after an early-morning verbal confrontation in a downtown parking garage. After his arrest, Snider was treated at Wishard Hospital for injuries that included a head wound requiring staples to close.  -All criminal charges were dismissed against Jason Snider, who was injured by IPD officers last May.-  The charges against Snider, which included felony counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting law enforcement and a misdemeanor resisting charge, were dismissed on Jan. 5. That same date, Judge Reuben Hill ruled that two of the arresting officers would not be allowed to testify at trial after they missed two dates for depositions scheduled to be taken by Snider’s attorney.

“The reason we dismissed the charges was that without the officers’ testimony, we do not have a case,” says Roger Rayl, spokesperson for Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Brizzi. Rayl indicated that the charges would not be refiled because the judge’s order excluding the officers’ testimony would apply to any new charges.

Through an IPD spokesperson, officers James A. Rusk and Nick R. Mitchell said they notified the deputy prosecuting attorney they would have to miss at least one of the depositions due to conflicts with SWAT training. The spokesperson, Sgt. Russell Burns, says he was not aware that two different depositions were missed by each officer.

For Snider’s attorney Eric Jodka, a former deputy prosecutor, the IPD officers’ excuses ring hollow. “In 30 years of practice, I’ve never heard an instance of the prosecuting attorney’s office and the defense attorney agreeing on deposition dates two times and the officers simply would not appear,” Jodka says. “Now I have a client with $10,000 in medical and legal bills for a case that probably should not have ever been filed.” Snider is considering civil legal action against the officers.

“Special investigation” of Lawrence water utility launched After a successful mayoral campaign highlighted by questioning former Lawrence Mayor Tom Schneider’s no-bid contract to a political ally for operation of the city’s water utility (“Water Fight in Lawrence,” Cover, Oct. 15, 2003), new Lawrence Mayor Deborah Cantwell has initiated what she calls a “special investigation” of the operation of the utility. After receiving approval by the Lawrence Board of Works and Safety, Cantwell contracted with Financial Solutions Group and its president, Gregory T. Guerrettaz, to review the practices of Lawrence Utilities LLC, owned and operated by Schneider’s former deputy mayor and a former city engineer.

“He [Guerrettaz] is going in to look basically from top to bottom what’s coming in, what’s going out and what the money is being spent on,” says Cantwell, who reaffirmed her campaign commitment to try to return operation of the water utility to the Lawrence municipal government. The city’s contract with the private company allows for the city to make a detailed review of the utility’s finances.

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