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Key witness recants statement

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GREENFIELD — A man whose claims led to a Greenfield police officer losing his job in 2011 has filed a court document stating he made up his testimony before the board that fired the officer.

In a counter filing, Anthony Overholt, an attorney for the city, says the witness was offered a bribe to change his story.

It’s a significant development in the case that currently sits before the Indiana Court of Appeals. Patrolman Tony Neumeister was fired at the conclusion of a closed-door hearing before the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety in 2011, and the case has been tied up in legal proceedings ever since.

Neumeister was suspended from duty in the fall of 2011 after Justin Jenkins alleged Neumeister sold a handgun to a convicted felon – Jenkins’ former boss, Shawn Huff. Felons may not legally possess firearms.

Jenkins has now recanted that statement in a recent affidavit filed with the appellate court, though in a subsequent motion, an attorney for the city states Jenkins only recanted because Huff pressured him to change his story and offered him “significant financial payment and considerations.”

What the appellate court makes of Jenkins’ credibility could factor significantly into the court’s decision whether to overturn the board’s decision and award Neumeister a new hearing. There is also some question as to whether the police department would be responsible for more than two years’ back pay if the court grants a new hearing before the works board.

The gun sale was at the heart of the termination hearing in 2011, but it was not the only allegation against the officer. Neumeister was also accused of using a state police database for personal reasons: He admitted to looking up Huff’s criminal record.

Neumeister was never charged with a crime, but the board of works unanimously voted to fire him.

Neumeister sued the city in the months that followed his termination in hopes of getting his job back. A special judge upheld the board’s decision, and Neumeister appealed.

Neumeister never denied he sold a handgun, but he said he made the deal with Huff’s wife, not Huff. At issue was whether Neumeister made the sale with the intent of getting the weapon into Huff’s hands. As to the database violation, Neumeister said he looked up Huff’s criminal record to make sure he hadn’t been convicted of a violent felony, because then, he said, he wouldn’t have sold the gun to Huff’s wife.

An investigation into the gun sale started when Jenkins, a former employee of Huff’s who had recently been fired, filed a police report saying he saw Huff with a gun that had been sold to him illegally by a police officer.

Neumeister’s request to have the matter sent back to a lower court is accompanied by a signed affidavit from Jenkins, who states his police report was false and “was made with the intent to harm Shawn Huff and … without regard or concern for how the statement would affect Anthony Neumeister.”

The affidavit states Jenkins formerly worked for Huff and only filed the report against him because he became angry after Huff fired him.

The court document filed by one of Neumeister’s attorneys, John Henry, states “the whole of (Jenkins’) testimony was fabricated to harm Shawn Huff and had the unintended consequence of being used against Mr. Neumeister,” and Jenkins has come forward now “with the intent to right the wrong of (his) former statement which was unjustly utilized against Anthony Neumeister.”

In a counter motion filed last week, Overholt, who is representing the city, states Jenkins’ affidavit should be stricken from the record because Jenkins was pressured by Huff to clear Neumeister’s name.

Overholt’s motion states that after filing the affidavit recanting his testimony from 2011, Jenkins told police “his recanted testimony was based upon and procured by fraud.”

Overholt’s motion alleges that Jenkins was first approached by Huff in May about changing his story and that Huff continued to contact Jenkins about the matter in the weeks that followed.

Jenkins is quoted in the motion as saying that he only agreed so that Huff “would stop bothering (him).”

Overholt declined to speak about the new developments but offered the following statement: “The city prevailed in front of the trial court, and we’re confident we’ll prevail in front of the court of appeals.”

One of Neumeister’s attorneys, John Kautzman, said he is preparing a response to Overholt’s motion. He declined to comment on the details but maintains Jenkins came forward and recanted his testimony in good faith.

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