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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Prosecutor Brizzi’s folly –

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the Juvenile Center scandal |

that didn’t exist


In a stunning turn of events last Friday, a Marion County Superior Court judge found Damon Ellison, the former superintendent of the Marion County Juvenile Center, not guilty of all charges in the alleged scandal of inappropriate behavior at the Juvenile Center.

Judge Sheila Carlisle, a Republican, found Ellison not guilty of obstruction of justice and neglect of a dependent.

Sixteen months ago, with big fanfare, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi charged Ellison and nine other Juvenile Center workers with various felony changes stemming from complaints of sexual and other misconduct towards female inmates. The huge publicity got Ellison and the others fired and shunned by the community.

Many of us who knew Damon Ellison’s commitment and dedication to the Juvenile Center couldn’t believe the charges; especially since they allegedly occurred in 2000 when Ellison and the Juvenile Center was under the direct control of former Superior Court Judge James Payne, who ran the Juvenile Court and Center with an iron hand.

A few cynics thought the case was brought because in an election year, Brizzi, in a tough race against Melina Kennedy, needed plenty of opportunities to show he was “experienced, tested, tough.”

Five months after charges were filed, Brizzi got his first victory, a plea bargain against Anthony Tyler for official misconduct.

But then, 22 days after Election Day, Brizzi’s big case began to unravel.

First, charges were dropped against Frank Hunt. Insufficient evidence.

This April, a jury found Wayne Vaughn not guilty of child molestation and official misconduct.

In June, Brizzi dropped all charges against Tony Martin, Meret McKinnie, Kelly Stewart, Bobby Clayton, and Kevin Patterson. Again, insufficient evidence and changed stories from the complainants.

The results of Brizzi’s 10 big cases? One plea bargain, two not guilty, six charges dropped. And in the 10th case, all charges except official misconduct were dropped against Dannoris Harvey who faces trial in two weeks.

This has been a miscarriage of justice from jump street! Cases that should never have been brought. With plenty of egg on his face, Prosecutor Brizzi should end this mess and drop the case against Dannoris Harvey – today.

It’s time to move on and let Damon Ellison and these other wrongly accused men to regain their good names and their lives.

What I’m hearing in the streets

I’ll give Fraternal Order of Police President Aaron Sullivan credit for coming to our African-American community explaining police officers’ view of the controversial alleged kicking of a Black youth by an IMPD officer during Black Expo.

In a two hour appearance last week on WTLC-AM (1310’s) “Afternoons with Amos,” Sullivan repeatedly defended the FOP’s contention that police were justified and authorized to “kick” suspects since it’s a tactic the IMPD trains officers.

The FOP believes that the officer involved was following departmental training tactics and thus shouldn’t be prosecuted. Our community doesn’t see it that way and is uneasy and upset over what they’ve seen on that police-made video. Our community’s also uneasy that no top IMPD official, including Chief Michael Spears and Sheriff Frank Anderson hasn’t publicly confronted Sullivan’s contentions.

Sandra Chapman, Anthony Calhoun, Derrick Thomas, Kelly Vaughn, Stacia Matthews, Grace Trahan, Derrick Wilkerson, Cheryl Parker, Kevin O’Neal, Mark Nichols – those are the names of African-American journalists who’ve worked for Indianapolis’ mainstream media for nine years or more. Only two, Nichols and O’Neal, work at the Indianapolis Star.

I mention that because one of the best journalists and writers in Indianapolis – of any ethnicity – Courtenay Edelhart is leaving the Star after 10 years. She joins an exodus of veteran, talented Black journalists who’ve left since Gannett bought the Star seven years ago.

In major cities, newspapers are where you find the most veteran journalists, including African-Americans. Television is where you find those who work in a community for a few years before leaving to seek fame and fortune in a Top 10 market.

Not so in Indy, as television is where the veteran Black journalists survive and thrive; with eight having nine-plus years of tenure at their stations. Compare that to just two at the Star.

I used to know the Star’s Black reporters because I’d see them out covering events in our community. Not anymore.

It’s bizarre that Indy’s TV stations have better records hiring and retaining African-American journalists.

I wish Courtenay all the best as she leaves for the Golden State and the California Association of Realtors.

The Labor Day parade was the biggest in many years. A testament to the new president of the Central Indiana Labor Council/AFL-CIO – Lettie Oliver. The first woman and African-American to head the local labor federation, Oliver made sure the parade included as many unions as possible as well as community groups who share labor’s vision, including our NAACP, Concerned Clergy and Peace in the Streets.

Candidates were out in force, with grand marshals Congresswoman Julia Carson, Mayor Bart Peterson and Sheriff Frank Anderson. Virtually every Democratic City-County Councilperson and candidates marched in the parade.

Democratic governor candidate Jim Shellinger was in the parade marching with auto workers. But the two other Democratic governor candidates, Sen. Richard Young and Jill Long Thompson passed up an opportunity.

Republican mayor candidate Greg Ballard marched, as did GOP at-large council candidate Kent Smith.

See ‘ya next week.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of The Indianapolis Recorder. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or e-mail him at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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