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Judge: McCormick case not dismissed

November 8, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – A felony intimidation charge against Rodney J. McCormick, accused of threatening the Michigan City mayor on Friday, has not been dismissed as previously reported, according to the judge.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Judge Greta Friedman said she wanted to clarify the situation: “The case has not been dismissed. Probable cause was not found to exist Monday morning, and this court granted a 72-hour extension of time for an investigation to continue.”

Friedman also said she has recused herself from hearing the matter, and has appointed both a special judge and special prosecutor to the case.

When asked Wednesday why she recused herself in this case, as well as a case from February in which McCormick is accused of slapping a police officer, Friedman declined to comment.

She also did not comment on why McCormick was allowed to post bond prior to his initial hearing when he was already free on bond in the February battery case.

“Unfortunately, I am not able to answer any questions beyond what I have indicated in my statement,” she said. “The matter is all to be handled in Starke County.”

Friedman said information on the case could be found at mycase.in.gov. However, an attempt to search for the case number Wednesday afternoon generated the response: “Search did not match any cases.”

McCormick, 51, was arrested outside City Hall on Friday after Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer claimed he threatened him and other city employees.

McCormick, a vocal critic of the mayor, posted $750 bail shortly thereafter; and Judge Michael Bergerson issued a restraining order prohibiting McCormick from coming near Meer and Meer’s family.

Then, when McCormick and his attorney showed up at La Porte Superior Court 4 on Monday for an initial hearing, his name was not on the docket.

Rumor began circulating on social media that the charge had been dropped, but multiple attempts made Monday afternoon to have Friedman confirm or deny that claim were unsuccessful.

When asked if the charge had been dismissed, McCormick’s attorney, Martin Ulferts, said Monday, “Upon review, (Friedman) found no probable cause and kicked it back” to police for further investigation.

On Wednesday, Ulferts said, “We’re glad that the judge has clarified the procedural process as to what has happened in the case. At this time, we have no further statement for the press.”

At the request of Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek, another city official McCormick has criticized publicly, the case was turned over Friday to the Indiana State Police. ISP Sgt. Ann Wojas confirmed Monday the investigation remains active.

La Porte City Councilman Tim Stabosz issued a statement Tuesday questioning the judge’s motive.

“As a La Porte City Councilman, the safety of Mayor Meer and my fellow officials in Michigan City is of paramount importance to me. That Judge Friedman would take lightly the personal security of public officials, and minimize the nature of the charges against McCormick, and the fear instilled in public servants, is reckless and irresponsible.

“One can only hope that Friedman has not acted with such suspicious haste, on the eve of an election, in order to inappropriately advance the interests of her husband, local attorney and longstanding Democratic Party power broker Shaw Friedman ...,” Stabosz said. “Has Judge Friedman been inappropriately influenced by politics, and specifically, the interests of her husband? The timing, and swiftness of this ruling are deeply troubling to me, and highly suggestive of such.”

The mayor was incredulous Monday after hearing reports the charge had been dismissed.

“I’m just appalled that Judge Friedman wouldn’t take this death threat at City Hall seriously,” he said.

Upon learning of Friedman’s statement Wednesday, Meer said, “Let’s wait and see what the Indiana State Police investigation finds. I think that’s going to be very pertinent. That was why, when it was reported the charge had been dismissed, I felt it was premature to dismiss it, on the grounds that the state police had just opened up their investigation on Monday.”

McCormick addressed the issue Monday outside the courthouse, and maintains he never threatened the mayor.

“Everybody wants to know what this intimidation is,” he said. “I’m pretty sure he’s saying that I said his days is numbered – and politically, his days is numbered. And we gonna get rid of him. We gonna vote him out.”

A copy of the restraining order filed in La Porte Superior Court 1 against McCormick lists three “incidents” as its basis, and claims all three occurred over the last three months.

McCormick came to City Hall to speak with the mayor “with his chest to my face, demanding I terminate city officials,” Meer claims in the order. McCormick also allegedly “yelled” at Meer and his wife, “telling us our days are numbered.” The third charge claims McCormick “slowly drives down my street in white pickup numerous times.”

A hearing on that protective order is scheduled for late November in La Porte Superior Court 1.

Stabosz said he hopes the state will continue to investigate the matter independently “so that public officials can sleep at night.”

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