GREENFIELD — A Greenfield police officer faces felony charges after bribing fellow officers to pull over his ex-wife and tow her car, court records state.
Lt. Terry Austin, a first-shift supervisor, told officers his ex-wife was driving on a suspended license, an offense that can result in a driver’s arrest. Austin, 42, of McCordsville, said he’d foot the bill for a $200 steak dinner for the officer who pulled the woman over and towed her vehicle, according to court documents filed Friday.
Austin made the offer to multiple officers who work in the McCordsville area where his ex-wife lives, providing them with the woman’s vehicle description, license plate number and a copy of a BMV report showing she had a suspended license, court documents state.
Austin is charged with bribery, a Class C felony, and official misconduct, a Class D felony, according to court documents filed Friday in Hancock County Superior Court 1.
Police made the case against Austin partly based on the officer’s own admission to the crimes, because at least two officers who received Facebook messages and texts from Austin about the bribe deleted the messages, according to court documents.
Austin, an 18-year veteran of the department, told investigators he was just doing his job and “didn’t see anything wrong with providing the information and offering the $200 steak dinner to the officer that pulled the vehicle over and towed it,” court records state.
Austin has been under investigation by the Indiana State Police Organized Crime and Corruption Unit since the allegation came to light in early March.
Greenfield police first received a complaint after Austin walked into the dispatch center and made a comment to a dispatcher about offering one officer dinner and another officer a $200 gift card to pull over his ex-wife, court documents state.
In a statement released Friday, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said Indiana State Police were then called to take on the investigation, “thus insuring the greatest amount of transparency.”
One officer told investigators Austin sent him a Facebook message offering “a large steak dinner” in exchange for pulling the woman over for suspended driving. The officer said he deleted the messages but thinks there were at least two sent in January or February calling the request a “crazy ex-wife thing.”
Another officer contacted by state police during the investigation said Austin sent him text messages making the same offer. The officer said he deleted the messages because he doesn’t keep work-related messages on his personal cellphone, court documents state.
A third officer still had the messages, which are included in charging documents. One reads, “200.00 … First one to nail her.”
Records show Austin used a police database to run checks on his wife’s plate number and driving record 25 times between Jan. 1 and March 31, court documents state.
Police are prohibited from using the system for personal reasons. A GPD officer was fired for doing so in 2011.
On Feb. 14, four Greenfield officers within minutes of one another ran a license plate check on the same vehicle. The officers told investigators it was because Austin radioed officers on patrol that day to say there was a car parked at the Hancock County Courthouse belonging to a known suspended driver.
One of those officers told investigators that as soon as he ran the plate number and it came back to Austin’s ex-wife, he “drove to the other side of town to be away from the situation,” court documents state.
Two other Greenfield officers, one of whom is Austin’s roommate, later pulled the car over because of improperly tinted windows, but Austin’s ex-wife wasn’t behind the wheel, court documents state.
Austin surrendered Friday evening and was booked into the Hancock County Jail. He was released on a $5,000 cash bond.
Charges have not been filed against any of the other officers.
Austin is currently on paid administrative leave, but Jester said he would contact the city attorney Monday to discuss whether Austin will continue to receive pay as the investigation continues.