MICHIGAN CITY – The arrest of Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer's stepson last week on drug and weapons charges led to a heated exchange of outrage Monday between the mayor and the county prosecutor.
Adam Ross Bray, 33, of Michigan City, was arrested about 8:30 p.m. Thursday by Michigan City Police and the La Porte County Drug Task Force. The arrest was made at Lake Park Plaza in the 5100 block of South Franklin Street, according to Michigan City Police Lt. Tim Richardson, commander of the task force.
Bray is charged with Level 4 felony counts of possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm (handgun) by a violent felon; and a misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement, according to the La Porte County Sheriff's Department.
But the mayor said Monday he believes the arrest was orchestrated by La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake for "political retaliation" against him and his family.
In response, Lake called those accusations "unbelievable" and "sad," and said it might be because the mayor wants another prosecutor on the case.
Neither police, nor the prosecutor's office, have released further information about the case as of Monday, and Lake said it may end up with federal prosecutors.
Bray is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $20,000 cash-only bond, and his next court appearance was scheduled for Tuesday morning in La Porte Superior Court 1.
"If my son was involved in something, it will be handled through the court system," Meer said. "Our family is disappointed that this is occurring. And it is important to point out that my family loves our adult son, Adam, very much."
But the mayor believes the arrest was a set-up.
"I must add that 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.
"It was brought to my attention by a confidential informant that he was directed by the La Porte County Prosecutor’s office and a member of the drug task force to target my son."
Those accusations are "absolutely false," Lake said, saying the mayor was playing politics and throwing his own department under the bus.
"The prosecutor's office should not be used for 'political retribution or gain' – that is the only thing the mayor said that I agree with. That is one of the reasons I ran ... There have been two different justice systems in La Porte County, but no more. That's why cases are up 20 percent. We're not sweeping things under the rug anymore."
Meer said it was "no coincidence that this is occurring just a couple of weeks before the election. It is also no coincidence that the confidential informant was driving the vehicle that was pulled over and he was not charged with anything."
But Lake said his office had nothing to do with the arrest, and he was not even aware of it until Friday, when he went to the MCPD to discuss another case.
"That's when the officers told me. I didn't even know who they were talking about at first. But I said I will prosecute unless federal prosecutors take over the case. ... the prosecutor's office does not target people and the drug task force does not target people."
Meer said there have been "false reports made on this case to the prosecutor’s office and the task force from one of John and Mary Lake’s [John Lake's wife, chief of staff and deputy prosecutor] known political allies.
"This retaliation against my family by prosecutor John Lake must cease immediately! The office of the prosecutor should not be used for personal agendas and political gain. John Lake’s bias toward me and my family has been demonstrated repeatedly."
Lake called such talk "reckless," adding, "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."
Bray has had multiple previous arrests, though in many of the cases the charges were later dismissed, according to court records, including arrests shortly before two previous elections.
In April 2011, a month before Meer won his first municipal primary, Bray was arrested on charges of dealing cocaine, according to court records. He later pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to 4 years in the Indiana Department of Correction; 2 years in La Porte County Community Corrections Work Release; and 4 years probation.
And in September 2015, less than two months before Meer was re-elected, Bray was charged with resisting law enforcement, according to court records. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 365 days in jail, but the jail time was suspended, court records show.
Asked why the mayor might want to accuse him of setting up the case, Lake said, "I don't know what he's trying to do. Maybe he's afraid I will prosecute this case and he wants a different prosecutor, so he's trying to come up with some kind of conflict."
Overall, he called it a "sad situation" for the mayor. "As a parent I can feel for him. Trying to protect his son I can understand, but instead of attacking this office and calling into question the judicial system, he should be focused on helping his son.
But to do it this way – I'm flabbergasted."