Federal prosecutors crack down on ‘catch and release’ criminal justice in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Federal prosecutors are working to crack down on catch and release criminal justice in Indianapolis.

The United States Attorney’s Office filed federal charges against three men this week.

Earlier this month, a man out on bond for previous criminal cases allegedly pointed a rifle at an IMPD officer on East New York Street. Police quickly arrested Donte Swinton, who was then released from jail on a low bond, before being rearrested. Federal charges have now been filed in the case.

“That case shows an individual that is a threat to the public that needs to be charged federally,” said United States Attorney Josh Minkler.

In two other federal cases, an interstate traffic stop led to federal drug and gun charges against a man named Donald Rudolph, and Dorian Hayden was charged federally after police claim they found more than three pounds of meth and other drugs during a raid on his home.

“We’ve made it very clear the days of us not taking these cases is over,” said Minkler. “What we focus on federally is people with guns with prior serious criminal records.”

The goal behind filing federal charges in three cases this week, and hundreds of others, is to cut down on what critics call the revolving door of justice in Marion County, where suspects walk into jail and then walk right back out.

“We recognize something must be done to curtail violence in our community,” said Tony Mason with the Indianapolis Urban League.

Still, Mason says he’s concerned the federal program will focus too heavily on minority neighborhoods and not address the root causes of violence.

“Our concern with Project Safe Neighborhoods is history shows us efforts like this lead to racial profiling,” said Mason. “You can’t arrest your way out of the problem."

Last year, Project Safe Neighborhoods resulted in 220 federal cases, nearly the same number as 2018.

All the cases come with the same warning. Minkler maintains federal suspects are often held without bond, and if convicted, result in tougher sentences than would be handed out at the state level.

“Make no mistake, the consequences of committing a federal crime are harsh,” said Minkler. “If you’re caught federally, you’ll be detained, prosecuted and sent to federal prison.”

If convicted, Swinton and Rudolph face up to 10 years in prison. Hayden faces a possible life sentence.

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