Prosecutor clarifies ‘Smokin’ Hog’ actions

To the editor:

It was with interest that I read the letter to the editor in the February 14, 2015, edition of this newspaper concerning the “Smokin’ Hog” cases. There is a need to set the record straight.

The cases in question were filed on November 12, 2013. Indiana Law is clear that criminal cases are to be brought to trial within one calendar year.

That time period may be expanded depending upon the behavior of the defense or the court, but not by the prosecutor.

The former prosecutor and his staff had 414 days to bring this case to trial and failed to do so. That failure created an issue that was fatal to the case under Indiana Criminal Rule 4.c.

I had no ability to look at the files in question until January 1, 2015. At that time, it was clear I had to file for a special prosecutor, and I did so within hours of assuming office. Prosecutors have the duty to proceed ethically and to protect the integrity of the justice system. There are rules and statutes that apply to the conduct of prosecutors, and they dictate the circumstances when a special prosecutor is appropriate.

I had previously represented one of the “Smoking Hog” defendants in a civil case. During this representation, I was consulted about potentially being hired to represent this person in the criminal case. During the meeting I was given confidential information about the “Smoking Hog” cases.

Although I was never hired to represent this person in the criminal case, I was given confidential information that created a clear, legal conflict of interest.

The conflict was not only for the person that I represented in the civil case but for all of the defendants. This is not allowed under Indiana Law and has been clearly prohibited for nearly 30 years.

My prosecution of the cases at issue here would have undermined the integrity of the justice system and could have placed my law license in danger of suspension.

Finally, allow me to address a misconception that may have spread to those who read Mr. Lister’s published letter.

I worked diligently and did everything possible to prepare to serve as Hancock County prosecutor.

That was made very difficult by the former prosecutor, who refused to allow me to have any access to the office, files or employees from mid-November until the end of the year. I was unable to look at a single case file until January 1, 2015.

It is an honor to serve as the prosecutor of our community, and I will work hard in the coming years to protect the citizens of Hancock County.

Brent Eaton

Hancock County Prosecutor