INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) - Crawford County, Ind., circuit judge Sabrina Bell’s middle-finger gesture toward two men in an SUV led to a fight and shooting that left two fellow judges seriously injured in Indianapolis, court records say.
The incident took place about 3:15 a.m. May 1 outside a White Castle restaurant in downtown Indianapolis.
On Friday, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications Commission filed disciplinary charges against the three judges involved: Clark Circuit Court 1 Judge Andrew Adams, Crawford Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell and Clark Circuit Court 2 Judge Bradley Jacobs.
Each judge is charged with violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and have been notified of formal proceedings. Adams is charged with three counts of misconduct. Bell and Jacobs are charged with two counts each.
The three judges were in Indianapolis to attend a judicial education conference and had been drinking at two nearby bars before the incident, according to disciplinary charges filed Friday.
Court records reveal new details about what led to the fight and shooting.
Bell “extended her middle finger” towards an SUV, after one person in the vehicle yelled something that caught her attention. Bell, Adams and Jacobs were standing outside the restaurant. Clark County Circuit Court magistrate William Dawkins had walked into the restaurant, according to the notices of charges.
SUV driver Alfredo Vazquez and passenger Brandon Kaiser parked, got out and began arguing with Adams, Jacobs and Bell. Court records call it “a heated verbal altercation… with all participants yelling (including using profanity) and making dismissive, mocking, or insolent gestures toward the other group.”
Adams and Jacobs moved toward Kaiser and Vazquez and a fight took place. “A physical confrontation ensued between the four men,” both Adams and Jacobs were shot, and Kaiser and Vazquez left, court records say.
In a recorded statement with Indianapolis police, Bell said, “I’m afraid that I said something to them first, I don’t know,” court records say. “[W]e’re all very good friends, and they’re very protective of me,” Bell said. Court records also say that Bell believed Adams and Jacobs went to defend her.
Adams told medical personnel that he drank "a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon" that night. His blood alcohol level was .213 upon admission to the hospital. Jacobs' blood alcohol level was .177 upon admission to the hospital, court records say.
The judges have 20 days to file a response to the charges from the commission that investigates alleged ethical misconduct by judges in Indiana. State supreme court justices will decide whether any judicial misconduct occurred and possible discipline, including a fine and sanctions that could include a ban on holding judicial office in Indiana.
Adams pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in September. A Marion County judge sentenced him to a suspended jail sentence and a fine.
Judge Adams is suspended with pay. Judges Bell and Jacobs continue to preside over their courtrooms, Indiana courts spokesperson Kathryn Dolan said.
Adams' attorney said in September that he intended to continue to work with the qualifications commission so he could return to the bench.
"This raises a serious question of whether a person engages in this kind of conduct, in the middle of the night, having consumed alcohol and engaged in an altercation, is one who is perhaps not fit to be a judge," said local attorney and legal expert David Mejia.
Kaiser, the man accused of shooting Adams and Jacobs, is charged with offenses including battery and carrying a firearm without a license. He awaits a court hearing next month.
Vazquez agreed Thursday to plead guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge and could be sentenced to as much as one year early next month, a Marion County prosecutor's spokesperson said. The plea agreement does not recommend a sentence related to the May 1 incident, but asks a judge to revoke Vazquez's probation and order 180 days home incarceration from a separate case.
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