Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Press Release: Former Hancock County Sheriff Bud Gray Settles Lawsuit Against Police Chief John Jester and the City of Greenfield
Retired Hancock County Sheriff C.K. “Bud” Gray settled his civil lawsuit with the City of Greenfield in lieu of taking the case to trial as scheduled for the week of August 18, 2014. The parties reached an agreed resolution during the course of a settlement conference conducted late last month which is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Indiana. Gray's lawsuit concerned claims made against Chief John Jester and the City of Greenfield for false arrest, malicious prosecution and defamation surrounding his arrest on obstruction of justice charges on August 6th of 2010.
The last four years have been especially difficult for the Gray family. Charges were hastily filed and Gray was arrested. A maelstrom of negative publicity followed after the initial news conference held by law enforcement officials including the Lead Investigator, Police Chief John Jester of the Greenfield Police Department. Charges against Gray were ultimately dismissed with prejudice in February of 2011 following an investigation by Special Prosecutor, Daniel J. Sigler.
Richard Cook, Esq., Attorney for Sheriff Gray stated, "Sheriff Bud Gray's lawsuit was never about the money, it was about restoring Bud's reputation within the community of Hancock County which he so proudly served for 34 years. We are pleased to have reached an amicable resolution with the City and accept the City's sincere expression of regret for how this occurred. The Gray family bears no ill will towards those involved in law enforcement or the City. The Gray family believes that weight of the events overtook the better judgment of those involved and led to a rush to file charges.
Sheriff Gray and his family have paid dearly both financially and emotionally for this hasty action. Thankfully, their lawsuit has provided the Grays with a vehicle to restore Bud's good name and reputation in the law enforcement community and Hancock County. The Gray family also believe the terms of the settled adequately recognize the seriousness of this loss."
As part of the settlement the City of Greenfield and John Jester have agreed to pay the sum of $100,000 and issue a public statement recognizing Sheriff Gray's service to the Hancock County Community, and their regret over the way the case unfolded which led to Gray's premature arrest on charges of Obstruction of Justice. The Gray family appreciates the City of Greenfield's recognition of Sheriff Gray's years of public service and their regret for how the events unfolded surrounding his arrest.
The charge of obstruction of justice as well as other matters were examined and fully investigated by Special Prosecutor, Daniel J. Sigler, to determine whether any charges were warranted. After an appropriate investigation, on February 9, 2011, Special Prosecutor Sigler filed a report with the Court in which he stated:
The Special Prosecutor in summary viewed “this investigation and the entire case as unfortunate and avoidable.” He also observed that “[t]here was no motivating factor that required a rush to judgment and Sheriff Gray being arrested” and “[i]t would have been far better to obtain the appointment of a special prosecuting attorney immediately so the entire investigation could have been conducted in a neutral manner without the drama of a public spectacle.”
[Special Prosecutor’s Report to Court of February 9, 2011, at 12]. On the same day the Special Prosecutor announced his findings, he filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice the charge of Obstruction of Justice filed against Gray, which was granted by the Court on February 10, 2011.
During the course of the civil litigation brought by Gray against Police Chief John Jester and the City of Greenfield, Jester was deposed and questioned regarding the investigation he led. In Chief John Jester's deposition, he was unable to point to any evidence that Sheriff Gray had ever communicated a threat to any witness with the intent that the witness withhold information or delay the investigation. Also, Jester could not identify any evidence that Gray unlawfully obstructed the City's Police Department's investigation.
In his deposition, Chief Jester conceded there were no threats communicated to any witness:
Q. During either of the conversation between Donny Munden and Brian Ellison, did the sheriff threaten either of those two individuals?
A. Can you repeat your question for me, please?
Q. Did the sheriff ever threaten Donny Munden in his phone conference with Donny Munden?
A. I don't believe he ever threatened Donny.
[Jester Dep. 127:10 - 127:16] Sheriff (Bud) Gray also never communicated to Brian Ellison any threats. Jester testified in his deposition:
Q. And why did Brian Ellison tell you that he didn't want to be taken under protective custody?
A. I don't know that he actually gave me a reason, sir.
Q. Did Brian Ellison tell you that he was afraid for his life?
A. No, sir, not that I'm aware of.
Q. And to your knowledge, there was no indication at that point in time that Sheriff Gray had ever taken any action to intimidate Brian Ellison?
A. Prior to his arrest?
Q. Yes, sir.
A. He had conveyed the threat to me.
* * *
Q. So what statement did the Sheriff make to you that intimidated Brian Ellison?
A. I can't say that it intimidated Brian Ellison.
Q. So there were no statements that he made to you that would have intimidated Brian Ellison?
A. Correct. [Emphasis Added].
[Jester Dep. 134: 05 -134:17; 135:16-135:21].
There was not any other evidence of obstruction of justice uncovered after Gray's arrest according to Chief Jester:
Q. Did any of the individuals that you interviewed indicate that the Sheriff had personally threatened them?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did any of the people that you interviewed indicate that they overheard the Sheriff personally threaten anyone else?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did any of the witnesses that you interviewed tell you that the sheriff -- that they had witnessed the Sheriff destroy evidence?
A. No, sir.
Q. Had any of the persons that you interviewed told you that they had witnessed the evidence -- or witnessed the sheriff destroy evidence?
A. No, sir.
Q. Any of the witnesses that you spoke with tell you that the sheriff had dummied up any records?
A. No, sir.
Q. Would it be fair to say that none of the witnesses that you spoke with after the arrest of the sheriff provided you with any tangible evidence of obstruction of justice?
A. That would be a correct statement, sir.
[Jester Dep. 213:13 - 214:11].
With regard to claims of theft of money or property, Jester conceded in his deposition that the evidence did not support charges:
Q. What evidence do you have that there was criminal intent on the part of the Sheriff to commit the crime of theft?
A. I don't at this point.
Q. So there is no evidence of mens rea?
A. Not now.
Q. There wasn't evidence at the time you prepared this report either; correct?
Q. And without mens rea, you don't have theft, do you?
A. That's correct. [Emphasis Added].
[Jester Dep. 246:09 - 246:19].
On August 6, 2010, the day of Sheriff Gray's arrest, Jester allowed the press to come along for the arrest of Gray and even transported a reporter and photographer in his squad car so they could be present during the arrest. [Jester Dep. 197:04-197:23]. To the best of Jester's recollection, this is the first time he had ever given the press a ride to an arrest. Id. This occurred even though: 1) This is not standard operating procedure for his department; 2) Jester would not have approved such a request by one of his own officers; 3) Having the press present would not be helpful; 4) It would be emotionally traumatic for Gray; 4) It would be unwise to bring non-law enforcement people to a situation where they potentially could be placed at risk; and 5) Chief Jester, as the chief investigator, had the absolute power to deny the press access and could have refused to transport them. [Jester Dep. 194 -197].
The news conference following Gray's arrest inaccurately accused him of threatening witnesses unleashed an avalanche of negative news reports concerning his arrest on charges for obstruction of justice which ultimately proved to be without legal merit. Following Gray's arrest, Chief Jester, as a spokesman for the Greenfield Police and the City of Greenfield, told multiple news agencies and members of the public that Sheriff Gray had threatened county sheriff employees to keep them from talking to law enforcement. This is what Jester said to the news media:
Today at 4:15 p.m., Hancock County Sheriff, Calvin Gray, was arrested in Hancock County. Sheriff Gray has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice. This arrest results from an ongoing investigation by the Greenfield Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department concerning misuse of government monies. During the investigation Sheriff Gray was found to have called witnesses, threatening their safety. [Emphasis Added].
When questioned by reporters, this point was again made by Chief Jester in the same news conference following Gray's arrest, even though it was factually baseless:
Reporter: What do you mean calling witnesses and threatening them?
John Jester: Um, there was witnesses called in an attempt to get them not to speak with us during the investigation. There was threats made of physical harm.
Reporter: These are not witnesses in other cases but witnesses within the department?
John Jester: Yes
Reporter: So fellow officers were threatened?
John Jester: Some fellow officers, yes.
These statements ultimately proved to be inaccurate as noted above.
Video Excerpts from Jester’s deposition cited above and the original news conference addressing these points are contained on the following YouTube link:
Additional inquiries for information or comment should be addressed to:
Attorney for Sheriff C.K. "Bud" Gray
Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch
9102 North Meridian Street, Suite 535