INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Bar Association defended a Marion Superior judge against the criticism of Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter who was upset about the bond she set last week for a man charged with a crash that killed three people.
Luis Leyba-Gonzalez was behind the wheel when his car flew through the intersection of E. 10th Street and N. Mitthoefer Road late on the night of Sept. 26th, slamming into a vehicle driven by Makayla Hawkins.
She was killed as were the passengers in Leyba-Gonzalez’s car, his 14-year-old brother Christian and his cousin Jose.
Investigators estimate Leyba-Gonzalez was traveling at 120 miles per hour as he was fleeing an Indiana State Trooper who had given up the pursuit a mile back.
Leyba-Gonzalez faces three charges of resisting law enforcement resulting in death, a level 3 felony punishable by up to 16 years in prison upon conviction.
At the hospital, after he was advised of his rights, Leyba-Gonzalez reportedly admitted to investigators that he was driving and responsible for the crash, had been out joyriding with his family members and panicked when the state trooper first attempted to stop him for erratic driving.
A typical bond for a defendant with no prior criminal record facing level 3 felonies would be $20,000 according to the court’s bond schedule so adopted by the Indiana General Assembly.
A deputy Marion County prosecutor sought an enhanced bond for Leyba-Gonzalez of $80,000, citing the number of fatalities.
Judge Jennifer Harrison set Leyba-Gonzalez’ surety bond at $50,000 plus a one thousand dollar cash bond payable to the Clerk of the Court.
Upon payment of the cash bond and arrangements made with a bail bondsman, Leyba-Gonzalez was released from custody.
Those bonds and that release infuriated Superintendent Carter.
“This has been an issue that we’ve talked about for such a long time. All this happening in Marion County and this happens to this guy that killed three people?” Carter told FOX59/CBS4 during an exclusive interview. “This system is broken. It’s badly, badly broken.”
Carter called for a review of Marion County’s judicial system.
“We spent millions of dollars nationally to review police agencies. What’s wrong with doing that same thing with the courts?” he asked. “Every slice of the pie that makes up our system is broken. We all have to! There’s no one entity that’s responsible. This particular situation its Judge Harrison. But the totality of the much larger issue is all of the slices of the pie that make up our system.”
Carter’s comments brought a reaction from the Indy Bar which rose to the defense of Judge Harrison as ethical protocols preclude her from responding to the superintendent.
”There was definitely a concern about Superintendent Carter’s comments specifically calling for an investigation into the Marion County Judiciary as a whole,” said Indy Bar President Rebecca Geyer. “I think there was a concern among members of the Bar Association that this was unfair criticism of the judge who issued the bail bond in this case and her actions as well as calling for an entire investigation into the entire Marion County judiciary.”
Carter said he reached out to Judge Harrison about his concerns but she didn’t return his call.
“Some of the comments that were raised by the Superintendent were really, we felt, inappropriate stating that he had contacted the judge and didn’t respond,” said Geyer. “Well, judges are not allowed to have ex-parte communications, and certainly not with the police who may be called as a witness in their courtroom.”
A longtime Indianapolis defense attorney said Judge Harrison’s bond decisions were right in line with state law.
”The premise of bond is to assure the defendant’s presence at any future hearings,” said Jeff Mendes. “If an individual doesn’t have any prior Failure to Appears, or things of that nature, then a bond is set normally pursuant to the matrix. A judge will also sometimes take into consideration when setting bond, does the person have individual family members living in the community? Is he a flight risk? Has he flown the coop on other cases? Things of that nature. Does he have a job? Is he working? Things that connect him to the community.”
Mendes makes a living arguing for, and often succeeding, in seeking reasonable bonds that will allow his clients to remain free while their cases are pending.
”I’ve done thousands of cases. I’ve had thousands of individuals on bond,” he said. “The majority of the individuals show up in court. They make their bonds. They show up. There’s very few skippers.
”Superintendent Carter did not have all the appropriate facts at the time he made that statement,” said Mendes. “What Judge Harrison did is exactly what our bail matrix, our bail reform has established. $20,000 for a level 3 felony, you double it, plus she added 10 thousand and she also had a thousand dollar cash bond, so, she’s right on tee.”
Leyba-Gonzalez attended his initial hearing on Tuesday.
He faces a late January trial date.
The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police also weighed in on the situation, throwing its support behind Carter:
On Thursday evening 10/5/2023, the collective membership of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police issued a Unanimous Vote of support for Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter in his call for a complete review and overhaul of the Marion County Criminal Justice system.
Superintendent Carter recently raised strong objections to the capital city’s revolving door of Criminal Justice following the low bond and subsequent release of a suspect who was allegedly responsible for a triple fatality crash resulting in three (3) counts of resisting law enforcement causing death.
It should be noted this release also came after a Judge rejected a request from the prosecution for a higher than normal bond.
This latest outcome follows a long list of disturbing instances of judicial and prosecutorial actions that have failed to balance the safety of the public with the rights of the accused.
“No one is saying bond should not be available for offenders, but common sense intervention that also takes into account victims, their families and the overall safety of the community must be returned to Court procedures and policies,” said FOP President Rick Snyder.
“The professional law enforcement officers of Indianapolis and agencies throughout Marion County have been highlighting the deficiencies in our broken system for over 3 years now. Our state leaders cannot shrug off the deliberate indifference of local officials and their failure to act.”
This vote speaks on behalf of over 3,000 rank-and-file police officers from IMPD, Beech Grove, Speedway, Cumberland, State Police, School Police Officers of all 9 townships and other law enforcement entities throughout Marion County.
Officers within Indianapolis are hopeful assertive steps will be taken to revive the overall criminal justice system throughout Indiana and pull the State’s Capital City back from the brink.
FOP President Rick Snyder emphasized:
“Superintendent Carter made clear, Indy’s revolving door ‘is not working’ and if corrective actions do not occur ‘we’re going to lose a civilized society.’
We could not agree more and call on state and local leaders to Close the Door.”