INDIANAPOLIS — An officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is trying to use state law to have the government pay money owed from losing a civil court case.
According to court documents back in December of 2012, Kailee Leonard accidentally hit and killed the dog of DNR officer Scott Johnson. She would leave the scene and return 15 minutes later with her fiance to inform Johnson of the situation. Johnson told Leonard to report the accident to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, which Leonard did hours later.
Three months after the accident Johnson told a local prosecutor, while at work for the DNR, that Leonard hadn’t told him about it until the following day. Leonard would eventually be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Those charges were dropped and Leonard proceeded to sue Johnson in federal civil court.
Johnson was ordered to pay $62,000 in damages. Indiana’s indemnification laws say that employees of the state may have the government pay for these costs so long as his actions were found to be “noncriminal.”
The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that Johnson’s actions were criminal as he discussed the events that lead to Leonard’s arrest with a prosecutor while performing his duties with the DNR. Johnson maintains that his actions were “noncriminal” and that there is not enough evidence to prove he knowingly lied.
The case was presented to the Indiana State Supreme Court last Thursday, September 21st. There is no timetable set for the Supreme Court’s decision.
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