Sullivan case finds a court
MICHIGAN CITY – After sitting stagnant for more than six weeks, the criminal case against County Councilman John P. Sullivan has landed in a court.
Sullivan, who is charged with a single count of residential entry as a Level 6 felony, will appear for his initial hearing in the matter on Oct. 4 in La Porte Superior Court 1.
Judge Michael Bergerson accepted the case Monday after the judges in all four other La Porte County courts either recused themselves or declined to hear the case, each citing a conflict of interest.
Also on Monday, Jim Rice, the Republican candidate for the District 2 seat on the La Porte County Council, issued a press release calling for the County Council to launch a special investigation and place Sullivan on administrative leave pending the resolution of the criminal case.
“It has been nearly two months since John Sullivan was arrested and charged, and yet there has been virtual silence, with no action taken by the County Council, regarding his status,” Rice writes.
However, that’s not the way county government works, Council President Randy Novak said Tuesday.
Novak, who is also Rice’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election, said nobody on the council is in a position to investigate Sullivan or place him on leave, as Sullivan is an elected official and not an at-will employee.
“I’m in no position of authority over him,” Novak said. “Now, if he’s found guilty of a felony, he can be removed by the state election board. …
“The council’s silence is not an acceptance or denial of the allegations; we just have to let the process play itself out. People are presumed innocent until they’re convicted.”
Sullivan’s attorney, Scott Pejic also responded Tuesday to Rice’s statement and the allegations he makes within it.
“None of these allegations have anything to do with Mr. Sullivan’s official responsibilities as a county councilman,” Pejic said. “There is nothing for the County Council to investigate. Any investigation – under the law – is conducted by the State Police working with the Prosecutor’s office.”
Sullivan was arrested on Aug. 3 after a caller alerted 911 to what he believed may have been the breaking and entering of a 39-year-old Wanatah woman’s house while she was away.
The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department responded, and Sullivan was arrested and charged.
However, Sheriff John Boyd turned the case over to the Indiana State Police, citing a conflict of interest in having his department investigate a county official.
Pejic has filed for the appointment of a special prosecutor as well, a motion that could not be decided until the case found a court. A hearing on that motion has yet to be set.
As Sullivan awaits the resolution of his case, he remains free on $750 cash bond.
The Level 6 felony charge he faces carries a potential sentence of 6 months to 2.5 years in the Indiana Department of Correction and a fine of up to $10,000.