Not guilty. Actually, not even that, the case was thrown out before I even needed to present my side.
County Attorney Bob Garrett from Bowers Brewer Garrett & Wiley LLP in Huntington, Indiana representing County Clerk Fran Felts and Clerk’s Office employee Pam Fowler, didn’t have a scintilla of evidence (I got that phrase from Wikipedia. I kind of like it. It sounds scintillating!)
Justin Wall, my awesome attorney, asked for a rarely ever granted motion for a directed verdict and got one. That means that once the plaintiffs rested their case and before I even needed to respond, Justin went for a Hail Mary pass, asked for a judgment just based on their evidence and BAM!!! Did the judge have some words!
So what happened? Remember the other day when I posted my article “I’ve been questioned by the police, why haven’t they”? Well, it turns out that Fran Felts and Pam Fowler did more than just call the police, file a bogus harassment complaint and waste your tax dollars having me questioned. They also filed a “Petition of Employer for Injunction Prohibiting Violence or Threats of Violence Against Employee” (scroll down to workplace violence restraining orders).
On Saturday, May 30, I was served by the Sheriff’s Department with a summons to appear in court Wednesday, June 2, to defend myself against the workplace VIOLENCE protection order Fran had filed on behalf of Pam. How did I pose a threat of violence? I asked a question of a government employee. And like Judge Heffelfinger told them, people have the RIGHT to ask questions. He also told them that they may not like the questions and they may make them feel uneasy, but people have the RIGHT to ask and officials can’t go filing restraining orders against people for asking.
The best part of the case, and the part that I think goes right to the heart of this issue was when the Judge asked Fran, “What would you have done if it was News Channel 21?” Fran looked pretty dumbfounded and the Judge got a little more vocal and asked again (I’m paraphrasing, but I believe I’m pretty close to what he said), “What would you have done if this was News Channel 21 standing outside of this Courthouse instead of Seth Anderson?” Finally, Fran fumbled something about it being “different” if a news crew with a camera is present. I guess it’s hard to file a protection order when they have video of the event.
Fortunately, I had audio of the event that saved me. But I still can’t figure out why Bob Garrett was so adamantly against including the audio as evidence. I would have thought they would want that. After all, it does document the incident pretty well.
It’s ironic that the Judge used News Channel 21 as an example, because I recently asked a cameraman from News Channel 21 if there has ever been a restraining order issued against a 21 reporter. He said no one would even try because 21 has money to fight it.
I wonder how much money the county spent prosecuting me in this case? I know for me it wasn’t cheap, but I used our Christmas fund. I justified using the Christmas money because honestly, it was like unwrapping an early Christmas present watching the judge publicly chastise the Clerk and company for their actions.
Anyway, back to the hearing. The objections from Bob Garrett concerning my audio does bring up a point. Was Bob Garrett with Bowers Brewer Garrett & Wiley LLP of Huntington, Indiana trying to determine the truth in this case? Was he searching for what REALLY happened that day? Or was he going with the stories Fran had given him.
Was he involved in filing the workplace VIOLENCE protection order? Or did he join the “circus” after Fran had filed it? I put circus in quotes because several times during the hearing Bob objected to bringing up issues regarding the e-mails and the stamp machine because he didn’t want this to “turn into a circus.” I think it was a circus long before the judge even entered the courtroom, Bob.
By the way, Bob, Fran wasn’t telling you the truth when she said we were outside of her office for over an hour (later in court she said two hours) waiting for Pam. We were there for about 10 minutes to use the table and chairs in the hall to sit and download a file to my laptop. Once Mia and I read the file, I packed up my laptop and we left the area.
We then went to the Commissioners’ Office, the Auditor’s Office and the Assessor’s Office (all of which had more than helpful ladies there, nothing like the unhelpfulness from the Clerk’s Office.) At about two minutes until 4:30, Mia and I noticed the time and headed back to the Clerk’s Office. About a minute after we got upstairs I started the recording that you heard in court – the one you didn’t want to hear. So we weren’t “lurking” out there for two hours, as Fran stated. Our “lurking” only lasted for about two minutes.
(By the way, I’m looking for a T-Shirt that says “Just Lurking” to wear around town. If anyone finds one, let me know.)
When the hearing was over, my wife said Fran left the courtroom looking really, really mad and didn’t stick around long at all. I guess she didn’t want to lurk.
All in all, it was a good day for the citizens of Huntington County, the field of journalism, news bloggers, and me. Oh, and it was a great day for my attorney Justin Wall because he requested and was granted the rare motion for a directed verdict. In legal circles a directed verdict is kind of like a smackdown – you don’t get them very often.
So thank you, Justin Wall. Thank you, Judge Heffelfinger for seeing through what Fran and Pam were doing. Thank you, Fran Felts, for making it possible, and most of all thank you to all of the citizens of Huntington County who sponsored and paid for the circus in the courtroom yesterday. It was worth attending.