JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - A southern Indiana judge has fired the director of a program he created to enable certain drug offenders to obtain treatment and maintain employment, rather than do jail time for their crimes.
Susan Knoebel's firing comes only days after a program participant, Destiny Hoffman, claimed she had served five months in jail rather than the two days agreed to as part of her plea deal. It came less than 12 hours after Hoffman's former public defender, Nathan Masingo, predicted she would sue Clark County and call for an investigation of Circuit Court Judge Jerry Jacobi.
Chief Probation Officer Henry Ford confirmed Judge Jacobi directed him to fire Knoebel, three weeks after suspending her and court bailiff Jeremy Snelling.
"There was no reason given," Ford said Tuesday. "She's an at-will employee of Judge Jacobi, as are we all."
"She was fired by phone call," Knoebel's attorney, Lisa Glickfield said.
"Somebody is making her a scapegoat for what's gone on," Glickfield continued.
Hoffman's case came to light as part of two investigations into drug court operations, the first by Indiana State Police. The other probe comes through a private firm, hired at Judge Jacobi's request.
"We're drafting a plan to remedy some of the problems pointed out," said Paul Lenfort, the program's interim director. "For now, it's business as usual."
Approximately 75 offenders have opted for treatment and monitoring, as an alternative to jail time, Ford said. "They pay for their own testing, two to three times a week."
Two caseworkers oversee all of the participants.
In a interview with WAVE 3 News Monday, Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull offered few specifics as to how Hoffman and another program participant Jason O'Conner appeared to have gotten lost in the system.
"Evidently, in these two cases, none of the follow-up that might typically occur in Drug Court did occur," Mull said.
"Drug Court is supposed to be a team-approach," Glickfield said. "The team includes the prosecutor, the Judge, the probation officers and the defendants themselves. They're all responsible."
Masingo claimed Hoffman herself wrote letters to Judge Jacobi and to drug court caseworkers.
"Once you plead, the Public Defender's office withdraws from the case," Masingo said. "Our job is done at that point. (But) somebody is asleep at the wheel up there."
"I believe she is going to file a disciplinary complaint on Judge Jacobi," Masingo said. "I'm not sure what will come of that. But I know definitely a lawsuit is going to be filed against the county."
Mull did not return phone calls seeking comment regarding Knoebel's firing on Tuesday. Knoebel's attorney said her client has not decided whether to appeal her termination.
"I can tell you that she (Knoebel) never expected to be fired," Glickfield said Tuesday. "She's not received anything in writing."
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