La PORTE – Just days before the election, felony charges were filed against Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer for his actions following the arrest of his stepson earlier this month, but no judge has yet agreed to conduct a probable cause hearing.
Court records show that on Wednesday – under seal – the La Porte County Prosecutor's Office charged Meer with one felony count of official misconduct; five felony counts of intimidation; and two misdemeanor counts of false informing resulting in substantial hindrance to law enforcement.
The charges were initially filed in Superior Court 4, but Judge Greta Stirling Friedman recused herself from "even finding probable cause on the basis that, among other reasons, the Judge's spouse, whose employment caused him to be included on an email chain and could potentially lead to his being a witness in this matter," according to court records.
That conflict extended to the court's magistrate, Friedman wrote, and the case was transferred to Superior Court 2. However, Judge Richard Stalbrink also recused himself from the case, claiming a conflict because his wife, Amber Lapaich-Stalbrink, is corporation counsel for Michigan City.
As of Friday, the case had not been reassigned.
"Since they both recused, it goes back to the clerk to send to the next judge up in the rotation to accept conflicts," Prosecutor John Lake said in an email. "I don’t know which judge is next in the rotation. Once they get the case they will need to review for probable cause, and once that happens, a warrant will be issued if they find probable cause for the charges."
The charges come in the wake of the mayor's stepson, Adam Ross Bray, being arrested by the La Porte County Drug Task Force on Oct. 10. He was charged with felony counts of possession of heroin, possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a violent felon; and a misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement.
The following Monday, Oct. 13, the mayor issued a statement saying Lake had been behind the arrest, targeting his son for political reasons.
"... It is a very dangerous time in La Porte County when the prosecutor, John Lake, can have your family members targeted for political retaliation and gain," he said.
Lake denied that claim, calling it "reckless."
"... the prosecutor's office does not target people and the drug task force does not target people," he said. "I really can't believe he's thrown his own chief and officers and the whole department under the bus like this. I'm kind of shocked by these allegations."
The mayor backpedaled on his accusation Tuesday during a press conference in which he introduced Dion Campbell as the city's new police chief.
"I do not stand by that, that he was targeted," Meer said of his stepson.
Less than two weeks after Bray was arrested by the La Porte County Drug Task Force, all three members of the MCPD's administration resigned, alleging the mayor had ordered the department to withdraw from the Drug Task Force.
In his letter of resignation dated Oct. 22, former police chief Mark Swistek addressed Meer directly, saying: “Your directive to me ... to withdraw all cooperation and participation in the La Porte County Drug Task Force and to reassign the officers who are currently attached to the Task Force places the Michigan City community at unacceptable risk. I am simply unable to reconcile my oath of office with your directive…
“I do not know whether your decision is related to your stepson’s recent arrest by the Task Force,” Swistek writes. “But I do know that your decision is not in the interest of public safety, that it places the people of this great community in harm’s way, without any drug enforcement, Michigan City will be less safe to live and a more dangerous place for law enforcement to work.”
When pressed on the issue during Tuesday's press conference, Meer said, "I could have said some things differently, or not said some things at all. We're all human beings; we all make mistakes. ... Sometimes you say things in life, even to loved ones, that you wish you could take back; but that doesn't mean everything should come undone the next day."
The mayor then reiterated his "strong commitment" to the MCPD and its involvement with the La Porte County Drug Task Force.
Meer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday evening.