Indiana Federal Prosecutor to Increase Prosecution of State Offenses to Crack Down on Violent Crime

 

Violent crimes could bring federal charges

BY EVAN SHIELDS  MADISON COURIER STAFF WRITER    APRIL 30, 2011

Joe Hogsett, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, announced a new policy this week that would crack down on violent crime by allowing repeat offenders to be prosecuted at the federal level.

Cases tried at the federal level would result in longer sentences for those convicted, and anyone on trial would be detained from the time of their arrest until after the trial with no chance for bail or bond.

“When people are arrested and they realize they’re being charged with a federal crime, their eyes open just a little bit wider,” said Jefferson County Sheriff John Wallace.

Hogsett announced what he called his “historic and unprecedented” initiative at The Madison Courier office with Wallace and Madison Assistant Police Chief Jeremey Perkins.

Madison isn’t the only place Hogsett is announcing the new policy; he is in the middle of a trip across the southern part of the state announcing the plans.

“I think it’s very important that the United States attorney and the federal law enforcement community … play a more supportive and more complementary role with local law enforcement than perhaps they have in the past,” Hogsett said.

Hogsett is targeting offenders of violent crimes and those who are repeat offenders. Two of the biggest crimes that Hogsett sees in the state are related to drugs and guns.

“The reality is Indiana, as a state, is a drug import state,” Hogsett said. “The plain fact is Indiana, as a state, is an export state for illegal firearms.”

The county prosecutor, with help from law enforcement and community leaders, will decide which cases to try to take to the federal level. Drug cases could be expected to be sent to be prosecuted at the federal level.

“The big problem we have down here, like most rural places, is the methamphetamine problem,” Wallace said.

Madison is not a violent area compared with Indianapolis or Evansville – two of the biggest cities in Hogsett’s district – but there’s still a chance that outbreaks of crime can occur anywhere, Hogsett said.

In the past, local law enforcement agencies would spend a good deal of time working on a case to send up to the federal level, only to have the U.S. attorney’s office send the case back saying it didn’t qualify.

Hogsett said most local law enforcement agencies have told him they’ve simply stopped bothering to send cases because they usually wouldn’t get taken. Wallace and Perkins both said they had heard that before, but they both said they are eager to see that change.

“It’s really good to know we have these contacts that we could utilize that, in the past, we really haven’t been able to utilize,” Perkins said.

The initiative was started by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who Hogsett said told all the U.S. attorneys to get out into the communities and help protect the safety of citizens and law enforcement officials.

Hogsett mentioned David Moore, an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department who was shot earlier this year when he pulled over a repeat offender who had stolen a car. Moore died three days later.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, is get those kind of menaces off the streets of the communities of southern and central Indiana,” Hogsett said.

Wallace said more officers across the nation have died as a result of gunshots than traffic accidents or other incidents on the job. And the number is gradually on the climb.

The FBI said from 2009 to 2010, the number of officers killed in the line of duty rose 37 percent. There were 160 officers killed across the country.

Hogsett said he is going to make seven commitments through this initiative:

• Federally prosecute more gun crimes than ever.

• Increase the use of law enforcement tools such as wiretaps, undercover operations, surveillance, search warrants and grand juries.

• Actively use federal drug and gun laws for the “worst of the worst” to allow for stiffer sentences and pre-trial detention.

• Aggressively employ a multi-agency law enforcement approach to investigate, arrest and aid in prosecution.

• Commit to training all law enforcement officers on the evidence necessary to maximize successful federal prosecution.

• Help find the financial support necessary to aid in sustaining local crime-fighting efforts.

• Commit the personnel necessary to prosecute illegal guns, drugs, narcotics trafficking and gangs.

So far, this program has resulted in 22 pending federal trials across the state, all of whom could face a sentence of life in prison. The most recent arrests were announced Wednesday in Terre Haute, where 13 people were arrested on charges of dealing methamphetamine.

“In essence, we want to become more aggressive as federal prosecutors in assisting local law enforcement in identifying the most repeat, chronic and violent offenders and assist local prosecutors in getting those folks off the street,” Hogsett said.

There are several reasons why Hogsett feels that federal prosecution can be a better solution for repeat offenders. First, he said, bail and bonds are available for anyone lodged at a local facility. Hogsett has heard stories about drug dealers who get released on bail before the police officers can even finish paperwork.

In state-prosecuted cases, the burden of proof rests on the state to prove whether certain allegations occurred. In federally-prosecuted cases, the burden of proof rests on the individual to prove he or she is not a risk to the general public.

This allows for a pre-trial detention for anyone being prosecuted at the federal level that will last through the end of the trial. Federal prosecutions will also carry a longer sentence than what state law calls for.

Once incarcerated, the state system allows inmates to receive one day of credit for one day of good time, which could result in someone sentenced to 10 years being released in as little as three to five years.

More often than not, Hogsett said, people who serve sentences at a federal prison will serve 100 percent of the sentence.

When someone is convicted of a crime by the state, he or she would be sent to a local prison that would be within driving distance of Madison. If a person is convicted of a federal crime, Hogsett said they will likely be taken across the country, serving a sentence in a prison in Montana, Utah, Arizona or another state that is far-removed from Madison.

“The point being, you can be taken completely away from the environment of criminal element, enterprise and activity that you’ve been engaged in,” Hogsett said. “You get them out of the community.”

Another reason to share resources in an attempt to prosecute at the federal level is to prevent criminals from stepping up to more severe crimes. Wallace said it’s often the case that criminals will start off with minor crimes and work their way up to bigger crimes. He wants to see the criminals off the streets before they move up to something more violent.

 

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