Ind. inmate with ankle monitor leads Ala. LEOs on high-speed pursuit
The pursuit caused a crash injuring three people
The Times, Munster, Ind.
CROWN POINT, Ind. — A Region inmate on release with an affixed ankle bracelet monitor was able to leave the state, lead Alabama police on a high-speed pursuit and cause a crash injuring three people last week, local police say.
And Region authorities weren't notified about what is considered an escape until two days after the crash, a Lake County sheriff's official confirmed Monday.
Lake County sheriff's police say change is needed after a private court-monitoring company failed to timely notify the department for the second time in recent weeks that it lost communication with a criminal defendant wearing a GPS ankle bracelet.
In the most recent case, Carl M. Smith, 28, of County Club Hills, Illinois, was arrested Wednesday in Scottsboro, Alabama, after leading police on a high-speed pursuit that ended in a crash. Three people were hurt in the crash, including one who was flown by helicopter to a hospital, Alabama police records show.
ICU Monitoring Inc., the private company that monitors bracelet signals for Lake County inmates on court-supervised release, did not notify the Lake County Sheriff's Department it had lost communication with Smith until Friday — two days after Smith's arrest in Alabama, Lake County police Chief William Paterson told The Times Monday.
"The problem is we don't really know when this guy escaped," Paterson said. "Obviously, it takes some time to travel from here to Alabama. He had been off the grid for some time."
Smith was charged in September with two felony counts of robbery. He was released on bond with court-ordered GPS monitoring in October, court records show.
ICU Monitoring filed a notice Friday with Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray, who issued a warrant Monday for Smith's arrest. It's unclear when Smith, who was still wearing his ankle monitor at the time of his arrest in Alabama, will be brought back to Lake County.
Smith admitted to smoking marijuana 30 minutes before the crash, and counterfeit money was found in his possession and at the crash scene, police records show.
Previous case earlier this month
In another case, Sheriff Oscar Martinez recently confirmed his department was investigating why it took about three hours for ICU Monitoring to notify his department April 12 after it lost communication with an ankle bracelet worn by Jarod Johnson, 22, of Gary. At the time, Johnson was facing attempted murder charges in a 2017 case.
The company eventually made contact with Johnson, determined he had failed to charge his bracelet and resumed monitoring. On April 14, Johnson's monitor was pinged at the time and location where a relative of a witness in his 2017 case was shot and left for dead, court records show. The witness' relative survived, and Johnson, his brother and mother were later charged in U.S. District Court in connection with the shooting.
Herb Smith, president of ICU Monitoring and a Gary city councilman, said he spoke with a judge Monday but declined to discuss their conversation.
"We're going to clear all this up," he said. "We do everything right. I never had any problems until now."
Smith said his company follows longstanding protocol established in cooperation with Lake County judges and law enforcement agencies. He's been providing monitoring services in the county for about 10 years, he said.
"If they (county officials) want to change something in my contract, that's fine," he said.
Proponents of court-ordered monitoring services argue they can reduce jail populations and costs associated with housing inmates. Defendants often must pay costs associated with the service, and monitors track a wearer's movements on timed intervals.
Paterson said Monday the sheriff is concerned about the situation because it's a public safety issue.
"What's happening now is not working, and there needs to be some kind of change," he said.
The Lake County Sheriff's Department wants to work with the judges, who order monitoring services for defendants, and Lake County commissioners, who approve ICU Monitoring's contract, to find a solution, Paterson said.
The sheriff and his warden are charged with keeping track of inmates, but they have no control over contracts for court-monitoring services, Paterson noted. That control rests with Lake County commissioners.
The department should have accountability for the contract, Paterson said.
Sheriff, company at an impasse
Paterson said ICU Monitoring has refused to cooperate with the department's investigation into the Johnson case.
ICU President Herb Smith declined to discuss specifics in the Carl Smith case, saying he plans to contact an attorney.
He confirmed he has refused to speak with sheriff's officials about the Johnson case.
"I suggested that putting me in the interrogation room is not the proper format," he said. "There needs to be a conversation with me, the commissioners, the judges and the sheriff. That's the proper format.
"You don't bring me in no interrogation room or come down to my office and want to interrogate my employees," Smith said. "We're not criminals. We've done nothing criminal."
County Commissioner Mike Repay said commissioners approved ICU Monitoring's contract and are responsible for ensuring compliance. Notification requirements are set by the courts, he said.
Repay said Monday the judges and Lake County Sheriff's Department have not notified the Board of Commissioners of any problems with ICU Monitoring.
"I don't know if there is an actual contract compliance issue," Repay said. "If there is one, we certainly want to address that."
©2019 The Times (Munster, Ind.)