Web search leads to appointment of special judge for suspect in domestic terrorism case

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Christopher Byrne

FRANKLIN, Ind. – An Indianapolis man accused of domestic terrorism will get a special judge to handle his case.

In August, a Greenwood police officer pulled over Christopher C. Byrne after seeing him “driving suspiciously” around the parking lot at the Greenwood Park Mall. Byrne refused to identify himself, claiming he was a “sovereign national.”

He was taken into custody after officers discovered he was a habitual traffic violator. During a search of his vehicle, investigators found a Ruger 10-22 rifle with 100 rounds of ammunition with a scope and homemade suppressor attached. They also found water bottles filled with bleach and ammonia, which form a toxic gas if mixed together.

New information has come to light in the case, specifically that Byrne used Google Maps to research the home address of Judge Cynthia Emkes, the judge presiding over a case from February 2015 that was already pending against him, days before police stopped him outside the mall.

After learning the information regarding Emkes’ address, Byrne’s attorney filed a motion asking for a new judge. He has pleaded guilty to carrying a handgun without a license and being a habitual traffic violator in connection with the February 2015 case.

His jury trial in that case was scheduled for Aug. 23, 2016–just days before his subsequent arrest at the Greenwood Park Mall. Records showed he researched the location of Emkes’ home before being found with the weapons in his car.

The motion said it was in the “best interest” of Byrne and the court to grant the motion and for Emkes to recuse herself from the case.

Emkes agreed, granting the motion asking for the appointment of a special judge.

“The presiding judge herein, Cynthia S. Emkes, does not believe any Johnson County judicial officer is able to preside over these proceedings based on the close professional and personal relationship between the judges in this county and the circumstances regarding Judge Emkes as stated in the motion,” the order said.

The order said time was of the essence to appoint the special judge because Byrne is being held without bond and has requested an expedited hearing. Shelby County Judge Charles D. O’Connor Jr. has been assigned to the case.

The federal investigation into the August 2016 arrest is ongoing, according to the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office.

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