Former Henry County DCS director faces federal charges

Darrell Hughes
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A former Department of Child Services director in Henry County faces federal charges for allegedly lying about a child exploitation case.

Prosecutors charged Michael Fleming for giving false testimony about school counselor Darrell Hughes. Hughes, a behavior specialist, took explicit pictures of at least four middle and high school boys he met at an alternative New Castle school, according to prosecutors. Hughes is also accused of giving the children alcohol, illegal drugs and other gifts.

In addition to being the former county DCS director, Fleming is also a member of the New Castle School Board, adding to the sense of shock felt by those who know him. By all accounts, he is stand up citizen, not only someone who worked on behalf of children at DCS but also on the school board. Friends and relatives who spoke with Eyewitness News said he is not a liar.

Still, the 58-year-old faces a perjury charge for lying to a grand jury. He is also accused of lying to two federal agents while director of the county DCS.

"For anyone to lie to a public official in furtherance of protecting Hoosier children is an egregious situation," US Attorney Joe Hogsett said Tuesday. "The agents were relying on him to provide them with truthful answers about whether or not complaints had been filed regarding Darrell Hughes' activity with youth in New Castle."

According to prosecutors, a DCS employee told Fleming in 2011 about what she considered an inappropriate relationship between her stepson and Hughes, who was the boy's counselor at the time. Fleming said since there was "no allegation," nothing could be done about it. But before the grand jury, Fleming said there had never been a complaint against Hughes.

Prosecutors said they learned of the alleged deception when the chief legal counsel and internal affairs head for DCS contacted them six days after the grand jury met.

Fleming later admitted to telling a "white lie" to the grand jury. He was fired from DCS on February 24 after an internal investigation concluded he was "encouraging a subordinate to make untruthful statements in the investigation of Darrell Hughes."

"We need the public's help and we need help from public officials to truthfully tell us what they know about what Mr. Hughes has been doing for the past 20 years," said Assistant US Attorney Steven DeBrota.

That was one of the messages from prosecutors Tuesday: they are still piecing together the investigation of Darrell Hughes and still trying to find out if there are other victims.

Fleming appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon. He faces 13 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted.