Carmel case under watch by state access counselor
Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates
Hamilton County - The state's top watchdog over public records has his eyes on the City of Carmel. At issue is its handling of the release of public records regarding the assault of two freshmen by three senior basketball players on a team bus January 22nd.
In a heavily redacted police report issued Friday, records show that police learned of an additional incident January 8th.
The report says that in an interview regarding the bus incident, the detective learned that an additional incident may have occurred. The victim told police there were "ongoing issues that were occurring in the locker rooms at Carmel High School."
The victim told the detective that the incident took place on January 8th.
Initially, Carmel Clay Schools referred to the January 22nd incident as "bullying." It was made public with a February 18th statement from Principal John Williams, saying:
"Appropriate, consistent, and immediate discipline was administered to those who participated." In the statement, Williams also said the entire basketball team was addressed and that the Carmel Police Department had been informed of the incident.
But Monday, 13 Investigates discovered exclusive undisclosed information that one of the freshmen boys was treated at a local hospital, where medical staff contacted Child Protective Services. Hospitals are required by law to report any suspicion or allegation of sexual or physical abuse.
Principal Williams responded.
"It was terrible what happened, and we're embarrassed and just as disgusted as anybody else," he said.
The hospital report forced Carmel Police to investigate. But the department refused to hand over a police report. 13 Investigates alerted Indiana's Public Access Counselor.
Six hours after our request, police released a skeleton of a report listing three possible charges: Battery with no or minor injury, Criminal Deviate Conduct and Criminal Confinement.
13 Investigates informed Carmel Police that it did "not satisfy the legal statutes" and that WTHR made "an inquiry with the Office of the Public Access Counselor."
Hours later, Superintendent Jeff Swensson announced a joint news conference for the following day. There were still few answers.
"I'm not going to get into particulars," said Chief Mike Fogarty.
"We really can't comment about that," Swensson said, in answers that were typical during the news conference.
13 Investigates again took issue and sent an expanded request to the City of Carmel pointing out its failure to disclose. They sent this response Friday.
In an e-mail Indiana Public Access Counselor Andrew Kossack writes:
"In response to your contacts...I spoke with Douglas C. Haney, the City of Carmel's attorney, who assured me that..his office will release all non-confidential information as the investigations into the January 22nd and January 8th incidents proceed. I will remain in contact with Mr. Haney as he continues to separate public information from that which is non-disclosable."
After that letter, WTHR received notice of the Sexual Battery police report. We have also confirmed that Child Protective Services is investigating alongside Carmel Police. And as many as 50 individuals, including students could be interviewed before this is all over.
The City of Carmel released the following statement late Friday:
The City of Carmel and Carmel Police Department wish to assure the community that they are working diligently to properly investigate the allegations involving Carmel High School students. This investigation is being taken very seriously and the Police Department is doing everything possible to protect the rights of the child victims involved.
Michael Fogarty, Carmel's Chief of Police, today announced that five investigators have been assigned to investigate the matter. These investigators are in the process of interviewing more than 60 potential witnesses. Fogarty emphasized that the allegations are serious and cautioned that the department's investigation will be thorough and careful.
"This situation is being handled with the utmost care and attention. It is more complicated than a typical investigation because it involves minors. The Carmel Police Department is working to ensure that no mistakes are made, caused by haste or pressure from the media for premature disclosure of facts, that could jeopardize a conviction," said Mayor Jim Brainard.
Fogarty added that we have all read of cases being dismissed or overturned by courts because of procedural mistakes made during the investigation.
Brainard said that the Carmel police are well trained and that they are taking great care to ensure not only that the children who are the victims are protected but that no mistakes are made that could jeopardize a later conviction.
It is important to note that the Carmel Police investigation is a criminal investigation and is separate and distinct from the investigation being conducted by Carmel High School officials.