GREENFIELD — The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s decision to uphold the firing of a Greenfield police officer accused of selling a handgun to a felon.
The ruling comes on the heels of new evidence provided by both the city and former Patrolman Anthony Neumeister in the case, which has been tied up in legal proceedings since the Board of Works and Public Safety voted unanimously to fire the officer in 2011.
In recent weeks, attorneys for the city and for Neumeister had submitted motions arguing about the credibility of a key witness who testified against Neumeister during the closed-door termination hearing.
That witness, Justin Jenkins, made the original police report stating Neumeister had illegally sold a handgun to Jenkins’ former employer, who had a felony conviction and could not legally possess a firearm. Jenkins recently provided the court of appeals with an affidavit stating he made up the story after a fight with his boss, hoping to get the man who had fired him in trouble. An attorney for the city fired back with a counter motion stating Jenkins told police he changed his story only because he was coerced.
The point turned out to be moot. A panel of appellate court judges said the court of appeals is “not permitted to reweigh the evidence or reassess witness credibility.”
In a 19-page opinion, the panel stated that Neumeister failed to prove the board of works’ decision to fire him was “arbitrary and capricious or unsupported by substantial evidence.”
While the panel did not reweigh the evidence, it did comment on evidence considered by the board, including Neumeister’s own admission that he misused a state database before selling the gun.
Neumeister said he ran a background check on the felon to make sure he was not selling a gun to the wife of someone with a history of violent crime.
“The board based its decision to terminate Neumeister’s employment largely on Neumeister’s improper use of (the database) for personal gain,” the opinion states. “…Indeed, under GPD policy, state law and federal law, his improper use … itself provides adequate basis to support his termination.”
Greenfield Police Chief John Jester, who recommended Neumeister be fired in 2011, expressed relief at the court’s decision.
“I’m glad this case has come to a conclusion,” he said. “I hope that this conclusion will allow all the parties involved to move on.”
There was relief, as it turned out, on both sides. After months of waiting, Neumeister, too, said he was glad the court finally rendered a decision.
“I don’t have to think about it every day,” he said.
Neumeister added he was disappointed the court could not take into consideration new evidence about witness credibility.
“I can’t believe as much evidence as we have, and nobody wants to hear it,” he said.
Neumeister said he hasn’t made a final decision as to whether he will pursue the case further.