Sunday, April 2, 2017

Summary Judgment: Two Legal Proceedings, The Same Abused Grand Jury

DEARBORN COUNTY, IN- In documents dated March 31, 2017, an Ohio man filed motions for summary judgment in two separate court cases involving accusations of grand jury record tampering. In 2011, Daniel Brewington was convicted of intimidation of court officials and served 2.5 years behind bars. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld Brewington’s convictions claiming Brewington’s critical internet speech contained “true threats [that] were carefully veiled” and did not enjoy first amendment protections. Now Brewington is suing for access to grand jury audio and seeking relief from his convictions. Grand jury transcripts demonstrate former Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard omitted a “true threat” argument from the record of the grand jury, while providing only an unconstitutional criminal defamation ground for indictments; leaving Brewington unable to mount a defense against the “true threat” ground the Indiana Supreme Court relied on to uphold Brewington’s convictions. In addition to being void of a “true threat” argument, the grand jury transcripts in Brewington’s case begin at witness testimony, requiring Negangard to either advise the court reporter to not record the entire proceedings, or to omit any opening arguments from the transcription of the grand jury audio. If Negangard failed to present a “true threat” ground for Brewington’s indictments, Negangard made Brewington a target of a grand jury investigation despite the absence of any criminal activity. Last year the Indiana Public Access Counselor issued an opinion deeming the grand jury audio to be a releasable public record and found the varying excuses for refusing to release the audio were invalid exceptions under Indiana law. Adding interest to the story is the fact Negangard now serves as Chief Deputy to Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. In the lawsuit seeking the audio, Brewington has also requested the Court to disqualify Attorney General Hill’s office from representing the Defendants due to Chief Deputy Negangard’s involvement in the matter. Hill’s office is arguing the Dearborn Superior Court II is entitled to immunity from civil actions seeking public records. No hearings have been set on either matter.

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