UPDATE: After the jury convicted Underwood of one of the three counts, the victim showed her joy in the victory:
JEFFERSONVILLE- The jury trial in the case of State of Indiana v. Chris Underwood is ON! People have recently learned how overburdened the courts are in Clark County so it is instructive to observe which cases get selected to actually be tried.
Gawnews was informed by defense counsel for Underwood that there were NO PLEA OFFERS extended to Underwood so this case had to go to trial. Underwood is accused of sexual battery to Leah Sweeney. The Investigating detective is Harold Kramer and the Deputy prosecutors (two of them) are Ben Read and Andrew Steele. (depicted above)
Underwood who was in Clark County Jail for a modification hearing is accused of grabbing Leah Sweeney’s buttocks and vagina. Leah was a fellow prisoner being transported by Jail Security officer David Able.
After the allegations arose, Chief Deputy Prosecutor and candidate for Prosecutor Jeremy Mull, provided an interview in which he criticized Judge Jerry Jacobi and blamed him for the occurrence. Mull claimed Underwood should never have been in the Jail as he believed the Judge should not have allowed him to have a hearing on his request for sentence modification.
Ironically, the investigating detective is Harold Kramer who was the alleged would be victim of Leah Sweeney’s cousin, Charles Sweeney back in 1990 when Sweeney planted an explosive pipe bomb on Kramer’s vehicle.
The Case came under way today. A video tape of one of the three alleged incidents of ‘grabbing was shown’. The video is not of the best quality…but, it does show Underwood holding his court papers in both of his shackled hands. It seems this might pose a problem for the state. In addition, the defense elicited testimony from Security Officer Fleming (depicted above) that he did see the video of the second incident (the video of which is now no longer in existence) and he did not see any unusual activity.
Oddly, the State seems to be eliciting a theory that Security Officer David Able was negligent for not maintaining more security and protecting Sweeney. Ironically, this is the same fellow who, today, is at the security station as you enter the Courthouse…ie now responsible for the security and safety of EVERYONE in the Courthouse.
Leah Sweeney gave tearful testimony of how she was groped on her buttocks and ‘her private area’ . The prosecutor apologized to her for having her give testimony.
Stay tuned as we follow this case.
UPDATE: The case resumed this afternoon with the cross examination of Leah Sweeney. The defense attacked her testimony by showing how the video of her did not support her claims of having her privates fondled for ‘seconds’ . Further her testimony was discredited point by point of the video not matching her description of what occurred. Proceedings had to be stopped as she was, again, tearful. She also had to admit her criminal charges were more extensive than what she had said on direct examination.
After the State rested, the defense called Officer David Able. David is a veteran officer who, after retiring as a beat cop, came back 7 years ago to work corrections. He testified he had guarded both Sweeney and Underwood and maintained visual on both of them during the entire ‘walk’. He testified there was absolutely no contact. He also impeached Sweeney’s claim that she had cried out when grabbed. (The video is silent).
The State responded by attacking Officer Able’s competence. They ridiculed his claim to have maintained visual contact. Following that, they insinuated he had been removed from prisoner detail and moved from security at the Courthouse security gate due to “sleeping on duty”. (The State offered no evidence of this slanderous claim). Officer Able denied the insinuation. Able testified that there was no groping of the defendant, now victim, Sweeney.
Next the defense called Mark Van Gilder. He testified he had been contacted by the prosecutor’s office and asked to review video of the elevator and hallway. He said he did so and saw no contact. This supported Officer Fleming’s testimony and impeached the claim of Ms. Sweeney.
Again, the prosecutor’s office decided to go on the attack against fellow Clark County employee…and though not a law enforcement officer like Dave Able, Mark Van Gilder is a well known and well liked figure. Still, the prosecutor attacked his having failed to either preserve or copy the video. They attacked VanGilder’s manner of testimony as if he were being biased for the defense. Still he was solid that he viewed the tapes and as Officer Fleming, Dave Able and as the defense contended, said there was no contact.
The defense then rested. We will report on the verdict as soon as we hear it.
UPDATE: GUILTY on 1 of 3 Counts Courthouse sources advise that Underwood was found guilty of 1 count of sexual battery and not guilty of the other two counts he faced. This is an interesting verdict. It suggests that the jury believed she was telling the truth on one act but wasn’t proven on the other two.
Note: In addition to GSL, a few other lawyers watched the latter part of this case. It was very unusual to see the prosecutors attacking and demeaning people like Dave Able and Mark VanGilder. We note that EVERYONE in the courthouse depends on Dave Able to protect everyone in that courthouse. We also note that perhaps they are unaware, but the prosecutors may want to consider that when they have a broken desk, or broken chair or a problem with their electrical or HVAC system …frequent problems in the 40 year old courthouse…it is Mark VanGilder that gets the call to come ‘fix’ it.