Man released from jail after questions about detainment for traffic ticket surface

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Wednesday morning, a Marion County Sherriff’s Office spokesperson told CBS4 that 49-year-old Gregory Harris was no longer sitting in jail.

That comes on the heels of CBS4 digging into why Harris was in jail in the first place.

Police arrested Harris Monday night on a bench warrant out of Kosciusko County for driving on a suspended license. But his wife says she has no idea why or how her husband’s license was suspended because Kosciusko County doesn’t have its most recent records online.

“There were several times that I just broke down crying today because it’s just so stressful,” said Crystal Black, Harris’ wife.

Crystal Black spent all night and morning on the phone and online, trying to pinpoint the initial problem that caused the warrant to be issued.

“She had to go in the basement to find the original citation because it’s more than five years old and they’re not online,” said Black of having to work with the clerk to find the paper records.

The age of the warrant and delay in notification is what really frustrates Black, who believes this all could’ve been corrected without an arrest had he known there was an issue.

“I found out that the original citation was Summer of 2012,” said Black “The warrant was issued January of 2013. So it’s five years old, 5.5 years old at this point. Had no idea about it at all until a simple headlight gets him pulled over.”

According to the clerk’s records, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, which also had orders for the warrant, was never able to serve it. No matter why the warrant issued, that solves why Harris didn’t know about it.

But still mystifying, is why that original citation doesn’t show up anywhere in case documents that are online. Tickets for an unauthorized U-Turn and speeding as far back as 1994 are in the electronic system, but all show they were closed.

“I’ve practiced law all over the country,” said one of Harris’ attorneys, Jon Little. “Indiana is the only state that I know of that still has paper.”

As counties and state departments update their records, Little says sometimes names and birthdates are entered wrong. Other times, he claims the b-m-v and court systems don’t “talk” to each other, so information, such as tickets people did actually pay, gets lost.

“I get a call like this probably once or twice a week,” said Little. “Somebody in Indiana is in custody somewhere in Indiana, for some reason, and we can’t determine why.”

In this case, they stated $180 needed to be paid for the “driving will suspended” citation. Despite not knowing all the facts surrounding the citation, Harris’ wife had the lawyer pay it so her husband could get out of jail.

A judge in Kosciusko County revoked Harris’ warrant Tuesday afternoon after the payment was processed, but by the time the paperwork was complete, there was no one to process his release in Marion County.

“There needs to be a 24-hour judge in the bigger areas,” said Little. “He’s had an attorney all day at the Marion County Jail trying to see him and they haven’t let her in and even if they did let her in, she’d have nowhere to go and get this case reviewed at.”

Little believes if a judge had been available when Harris was arrested or soon after, they would have quickly realized something didn’t check out with his arrest.

“If there was a 24/7 judge on this case, I think the judge would’ve at least wanted to see why the state was asking for a detainer here,” said Little. “The judges are fair people. They would’ve seen, the would’ve asked, why are you holding this guy? I can’t find an open case for him.”

Until a judge reviews the case and the paperwork is stamped, tax dollars pay to keep people in jail for warrants stemming for unpaid parking and license citations, or even tickets that were paid but didn’t show up properly in the system.

Little says in this case, the hurried process to get Harris out of jail means he and his family may never know why the warrant was issued and why it was never served.

His wife says that is troubling, not just for her and her husband, but everyone.

“My God, if I, a white, middle-class woman, had this much trouble with the system, how is an African-American woman going to struggle with it?” Black asked, throwing up her hands. “How is a Latino going to be challenged with this?”

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