MICHIGAN CITY – A “disgraced” La Porte County Council member resigned his post and retired from his job as a La Porte firefighter on Thursday, mandatory conditions of his plea agreement to a felony residential entry charge.
John P. Sullivan, 59, confirmed Thursday he has already undergone the mental evaluation mandated in his plea agreement; and that he is prepared to spend the next year on GPS monitoring.
For the next two years, Sullivan must report to all scheduled probation meetings, pass all drug screens and refrain from being charged with any additional crimes.
Should he complete his pre-trial probation satisfactorily, Sullivan will return to La Porte Superior Court 1 on Sept. 2, 2021, where his judgment of conviction will be entered as a Class A misdemeanor.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am personally in these actions to which you have pleaded guilty,” Judge Michael Bergerson said in court Thursday. “Your actions constitute, certainly, a betrayal of trust. You have ruined a career of service to our community. And as you stand before the court today, you stand ... a disgraced man.”
Sullivan admitted in open court to having entered the private residence of a 39-year-old Wanatah woman without her authorization on May 14, 2018.
"I'm deeply sorry and profoundly sorry for my actions,” Sullivan said Thursday, his comments directed toward the victim, who was not present in court.
“... It was never my intent to cause you any trouble. I realize now that it was very wrong for me to do this, and ask for your forgiveness. I will accept the judgment that I am given by the court and La Porte County, and will not have any contact with you further."
Sullivan’s defense attorney, Scott Pejic, told the judge his client had been cooperative and remorseful from the beginning of the case, voluntarily talking to police without an attorney present and issuing an apology to the victim more than a year ago.
”He did everything you would want someone to do to demonstrate they've accepted responsibility,” Pejic said.
Special Prosecutor Robert Ives said that when he took over the case, he received a large stack of paperwork containing various allegations from multiple witnesses. However, he believes only two of the claims were chargeable.
One is the case to which Sullivan pleaded guilty Thursday. The other was one involving a juvenile, who Ives said might be further harmed if the state were to charge it and force the victim to testify.
"The state police did a wonderful job trying to follow up every allegation,” Ives said. “And I'm not saying any allegation is false. I'm only saying that in terms of the criminal justice system, I don't think they're chargeable, either because of the statute of limitations or because the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction."
Because Sullivan did not break into the woman’s home to steal anything, he was not charged with burglary, Ives said; but the plea agreement was crafted to keep Sullivan monitored for as long as possible.
Should Sullivan violate his pre-trial probation, he would be subject to a sentence ranging from an extended probation to up to three years in prison.
"I think it probably affords the county of La Porte and the state of Indiana the longest possible length of supervision and the greatest assurance that Mr. Sullivan will stay on the straight and narrow."
Pejic clarified for the court that although the victim made mention of Sullivan’s pension at a hearing in May, surmising the plea agreement was made to allow him to keep his pension from the La Porte Fire Department, that at no time during plea negotiations did that subject arise.
“That was never an issue,” Pejic said. “... Anything he's receiving by way of pension or benefit would have been coming to him regardless. So, I can assure you and the community that this agreement had nothing to do with a benefit of his employment."
In exchange for Sullivan’s plea, the state agreed not to prosecute him on any of the remaining allegations against him made prior to May 14, 2018.