NOBLESVILLE, Ind.– A Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer was suspended for three days after listening to part of a confidential conversation between the juvenile suspect accused of shooting a student and a teacher at Noblesville West Middle School and his attorney.
Attorney Ben Jaffe says this was the first conversation the suspect had with an attorney to make initial contact. It occurred on May 26 at the Hamilton County Juvenile Services Center Secure Detention facility. Jaffe told CBS4 the officer listened in on the conversation intentionally, but the sheriff’s office disputes that.
Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen says a corrections officer working in the facility’s control room attempted to turn on a camera in the visitation room but it didn’t operate initially.
“From her training, the officer knew that activating an intercom would also activate the camera for that specific intercom in the room,” Sheriff Mark Bowen said in a statement. “Once the officer had the camera running and realized the conversation was audible, the officer immediately turned the volume down as low as the instrument allowed which prohibited the conversation from being overheard and understood.”
Staff members reported the incident through a supervisor, and the prosecutor’s office immediately notified of the incident by Sheriff Bowen. Bowen also share the information directly to the suspect’s attorney.
“The investigation concluded there was nothing indicating the conversation was listened to intentionally or that any information was released outside the secure confines of the facility,” Bowen said.
The officer was retrained and stayed in that job following a three-day suspension. Bowen says the intercom system in the visitation area was deactivated and repaired to prevent future incidents. He also recommended all employees get additional training in attorney/client confidentiality.
The investigation into the incident by the sheriff’s office is complete, Bowen said.
Eskew Law Firm says they were disappointed and concerned but feel the sheriff took the matter seriously. The firm believes the situation was handled properly. They do not expect this to impact the case. Jaffe says he still suspects the officer listened intentionally, but also says he has no reason to not believe the account of the sheriff’s office.
The next hearing in the case is set for Sept. 10-11.