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Crawford judge faces misconduct charges

Bell flipped off men before fight

October 16, 2019
Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell faces formal charges of judicial misconduct due to a May 1 incident in Indianapolis. The two Clark County judges involved have also been charged. The three were attending a judicial conference at the time.

Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell
Details were released last week by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, the body which oversees discipline, suspension and removal of judges. The report outlines what happened that Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

According to the findings, it was an intoxicated Bell that initially engaged with the two men in a SUV that drove by the three in a White Castle parking lot. The three had ended up there after a night of drinking at different Indianapolis establishments.

Either the driver of the SUV, Alfredo Vazquez, or passenger, Brandon Kaiser, yelled something out the window which drew the attention of the judges.

"Judge Bell extended her middle finger to the occupants of the SUV," reads the report.

Vazquez parked the vehicle, then he and Kaiser approached the trio and a heated verbal altercation ensued, with all parties involved. The report notes Bell did not attempt to de-escalate the confrontation "but rather she continued to provoke communication with the two men."

Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs then started moving toward Vazquez and Kaiser, and the four engaged in a physical altercation. At some point, both Adams and Jacobs were shot by Kaiser, then he and Vazquez left the scene. Emergency personnel were called, and Adams and Jacobs were taken to the hospital.

Bell gave two statements to police: on the morning of the altercation and another a couple weeks later. She said she didn't remember what she said to the men in the SUV or what started the fight. However, media on the scene videotaped her "telling police detectives, in an excited state, 'I feel like this is all my fault' or words to that effect." After she was told of the media's video, Bell admitted to verbally engaging with the men, saying the other judges "went to defend me."

She said, "I'm not denying that I said something or egged it on ... because I drink ... I mean I fully acknowledge that I drink and get mouthy, and I'm fiery and I'm feisty, but, if I would have ever thought for a second that they were gonna fight or that that guy had a gun on him, I would never, never ... "

The commission charges that Bell "behaved in an injudicious manner that reflected poorly on the judiciary." By doing so, she violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. She is also charged with violating Rule 3.1 (C) of the code which requires a judge to not participate in extrajudicial activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge's integrity, independence or impartiality.

The commission has requested the Supreme Court appoint a committee of three to conduct a public hearing on the charges that Bell committed judicial misconduct. Bell has 20 days to file a written answer to the charges.

When contacted by this newspaper about the charges, Bell responded, "Due to the pending allegations, I cannot comment on the details of the case. Additionally, I am a witness to a related criminal matter, and, as a member of the judiciary, I cannot comment on an open case."

Elected in November 2016, Bell is in her first term as judge.

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    October 17, 2019 | 08:14 PM

    Is she a Democrat or Republican?

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