Sheriff’s department didn’t encourage former deputy’s violent behavior against victim

HANCOCK COUNTY – A federal judge agreed the county sheriff’s department’s response to accusations of domestic abuse by one its deputies was “insufficient” — but denied a victim’s claim the man’s coworkers encouraged his violence.

The state appellate court this week ruled in favor of the sheriff’s department, which was sued in 2014 by Jennifer Wilson-Trattner, one of several women involved in criminal cases against former sheriff’s deputy Scott Roeger.

Roeger, who resigned from the department in 2014, was charged in five criminal cases after several women he was involved with accused him of abuse. He pleaded guilty to charges of battery and criminal mischief in a plea agreement that covered four Hancock County cases. He pleaded guilty to intimidation in a fifth case, handled in Hamilton County. He served time on probation in all cases.

Wilson-Trattner said Roeger was allegedly investigated several times before he was charged, but no department action was brought against him by his colleagues, according to court documents.

She said she called police to her home on several times in 2012 and 2013, accusing Roeger of putting his hands around her neck during a fight, throwing her against a wall and threatening her via text message, according to court documents.

Members of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and McCordsville Police Department investigated the incidents. The allegations also prompted the sheriff’s department to launch an internal investigation into Roeger, who was a deputy at the time. He resigned in lieu of being fired.

Wilson-Trattner’s said the sheriff’s department and its leaders failed to protect her from Roeger and “improperly responded” to her complaints of domestic abuse, according to court documents. Wilson-Trattner also alleged Roeger’s superiors made a habit of dismissing his misbehavior, court documents state.

An Indiana judge in 2016 ruled on behalf of the defendants, saying the sheriff’s department’s leaders had not acted inappropriately. Wilson-Trattner immediately appealed the decision.

Now, an appellate court has reaffirmed the original ruling.

Judge Jon DeGuilio wrote in his decision that Wilson-Trattner failed to provide sufficient evidence the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department acted improperly.

The woman’s claims “if anything, describe an insufficient response to her calls for assistance,” DeGuilio said.

“There is no indication … that any of these officers did anything to embolden Roeger or otherwise indicate that he could abuse Wilson-Trattner with immunity,” DeGuilio wrote.

Sheriff Mike Shepherd said he is glad to put the lawsuit behind him. He maintains he and his officers did all they could to investigate the allegations against Roeger.

Wilson-Trattner said in a statement to the Daily Reporter that she stands by her belief that Roeger and the sheriff’s department could have done more.

“My whole reason for this fight was because I do not want this to happen to anyone else,” she said. “I trusted these people to protect me, and they did not.”

Neal Eggeson, who represented Wilson-Trattner during the appeal process, called the decision disappointing. He said he and his client are weighing whether or not to file a second appeal but declined to comment further.

Scott Roeger could not be reached for comment on this story. His attorney did not return a call for comment.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.