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MCHS football player's case moved to juvenile court

MICHIGAN CITY – The criminal case filed against a Michigan City High School football player for allegedly attempting to rob Rios Mexican Grill has been transferred to juvenile court.

Michael C. Bradford was 16 years old on Jan. 9 when the incident occurred, but was charged as an adult the following week.

Mary Lake, chief of staff for the La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office, said Tuesday that in cases of murder, rape and robbery, juveniles 16 or older are “direct filed” – or automatically charged in adult court.

However, she clarified, Bradford was not charged with robbery, but attempted robbery, meaning his case should not have been filed in the high felony court.

Bradford, who was being held on a $25,000 cash bond, was scheduled to appear in La Porte Superior Court 1 on Tuesday for a bail review hearing. But it was canceled after Judge Michael Bergerson granted a defense motion for transfer on Jan. 22.

The defense also moved to have the case dismissed, but Bergerson denied that request.

Bradford was released from the La Porte County Jail into the custody of the Juvenile Service Center, where his future court proceedings will be confidential.

He remains charged with attempted armed robbery, but no longer faces 3-16 years in prison if convicted.

At the juvenile level, Lake said, sentences range from probation to a term in boys’ school.

Bradford, now 17, is a junior at MCHS, where he started the 2019 football season as quarterback and finished as a running back and linebacker, reportedly drawing interest from college teams.

His aunt told the court that he had never been in legal trouble before the Jan. 9 incident, that he is active in church, and that he scores grades of A and B and exhibits model behavior in school.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in La Porte Superior Court 1, a Rios employee told police a black male in black clothing and a black hat approached the restaurant window, pointed a gun in her face and demanded “the pouch” where the restaurant stores cash from customer transactions.

She claimed she told the suspect “no” and called him by name, prompting him to flee on foot without any stolen money or property.

She identified Bradford as the suspect by his name and photograph, noting that she knows him from school.


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Mayor Parry outlines plans for Michigan City

MICHIGAN CITY — Mayor Duane Parry hosted the first of his planned monthly Coffee with the Mayor sessions at the Michigan City Senior Center on Tuesday.

The event attracted a large turnout, and residents spent an hour asking Parry about his plans – and about their various problems.

Among the topics of discussion were code enforcement issues, major projects, and city finances. Among the issues the mayor addressed:

Jobs

Light-industrial, living-wage jobs are what the mayor hopes to attract to Michigan City during his time in office. He said he hopes to bring in work that appeals to people who do not want to work at the casino, or in retail or food service.

South Shore Double Track

Parry said he is “opposed” to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s double track project and to the city’s decision under the previous administration to devote millions of dollars to it. He said he doesn’t foresee any significant progress happening with the project within the next three years.

Marquette Mall

The mayor pledged to contact the current owner of the nearly empty mall to discuss the options for revitalizing the property. He said that if the owner continues to be uncooperative, he will use code enforcement to “bring him to the table.”

Franciscan Health Michigan City

To address a concern raised by hospital officials early this month, Parry said he will ask the Indiana Department of Transportation to reopen the access road along U.S. 421 to the new hospital for city buses, which currently approach the property from the west side. The hospital has requested that riders be dropped off farther to the east near the main entrance.

Former St. Anthony Hospital property

A U.S. military veteran himself, Parry said he hopes to get a Veterans Administration clinic and/or a residential facility for veterans into the site Franciscan moved out of last year.

Former Memorial Hospital property

The mayor said he would rather see condos than apartments developed at the site, so as to keep the site from becoming a low-income project.

Housing and homelessness

Parry said he has been talking with Jim Musial at Citizens Concerned for the Homeless about ways to get the city’s homeless population “back on their feet and engaged in the community.” He expressed concern for “the path Michigan City is traveling,” and said he doesn’t want the city to become “the place that the homeless want to live.”

Michigan City Promise Scholarship

The Promise Scholarship currently provides money for local students to attend college, but Parry said he has been talking with Michigan City Area Schools Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins about expanding the program to include kids wanting to enter trades or other vocational training.

Dog beach

A lover of rescue dogs, especially senior animals, Parry said “there is definitely going to be a dog-friendly beach in Michigan City” under his administration.

Riverboat funding

Just one week after it was reported that the city’s Riverboat Fund is the lowest it has ever been at $1.2 million, Parry told his audience that he plans to curb spending. The city has received approximately $265 million in riverboat funds since the casino was established in 1997, he noted; and he promised his administration will behave in a more “fiscally responsible” manner than previous administrations.


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Thorne seeks re-election as judge of La Porte Superior Court 3

La PORTE — Jeffrey L. Thorne has announced he is seeking re-election this year as judge of La Porte Superior Court 3.

Thorne was first elected Superior Court 3 judge in November 2014, assumed the bench on Jan. 1, 2015, and has served in that capacity for the past five years.

Superior Court 3 is a high-volume court which handles misdemeanor charges including theft, battery, operating while intoxicated and other crimes, along with the disposition of approximately 3,500 infractions annually, the judge said.

The court also hears a high-volume of civil matters, including small claims, landlord/tenant disputes and various other forms of civil cases including collections, business and contract issues.

At any given time, there are approximately 7,500 cases active, with at least 5,000 cases disposed of annually, the judge said.

In his capacity as judge of the Superior Court 3, Thorne has also supervised and implemented the La Porte County Veterans Treatment Court, with approximately a dozen veteran graduates who have turned their lives around, he said.

Additionally, Thorne supervises the La Porte County Alcohol and Drug Services Program and oversaw the retirement of its longtime director and appointment of her successor.

Upon assuming the bench in 2015, Thorne assisted with the design of the new Superior Court 3 courtroom, conference room, jury room and staff offices when they relocated from the lower level of the La Porte County Annex Building to the second floor of the La Porte County Courthouse.

Construction and relocation of the court was completed in April 2016.

Thorne has also instituted procedural changes and modifications to help streamline the civil case load and, in particular, the landlord/tenant process providing for more efficient, prompt and orderly disposition of landlord/tenant issues, he said.

He also was actively involved as a leader in the development of the La Porte County Criminal Pre-Trial Services Program, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“This process, which was mandated by the Indiana Supreme Court, began during the summer of 2018 and required the coordination of representatives from all law enforcement agencies in the county, as well as the Prosecutor’s Office, La Porte County Jail, Public Defender’s Office, Probation Department and Clerk’s Office, along with a number of independent agencies throughout the county,” Thorne said.

He has also served on the Indiana Supreme Court’s Special Courts Committee and is a graduate of the Indiana Judicial College. He is a member of the Indiana Judges Association, as well as the American Judges Association.

Prior to his election to the bench, Thorne practiced law in La Porte County for more than 35 years, including serving as attorney to the Long Beach Town Council for more than 30 years and the Michigan City Aviation Commission for more than 10 years.

Thorne has been admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, all Federal District Courts in Indiana, and all Indiana Trial and Appellate Courts.

He is a former president of the Michigan City Bar Association and a former member of the Board of Governors of the La Porte County Bar Association.

While engaged in the practice of law, he served on a number of boards including the La Porte County Youth Services Bureau, Michigan City Red Cross and Michigan City Junior Achievement.

He presently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan City Historical Society, and was formerly a 12-year member and past president of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Asked about his first term on the bench, Thorne said, “The La Porte Superior Court 3 is a high-volume court which handles a wide variety of cases both civil and criminal, including a fair number of cases in which either one or both parties are not represented by attorneys.

“My many years of practicing law and representing clients has been invaluable to me in helping people navigate the justice system when they can not afford to hire an attorney.”

He said the job “requires patience, compassion, a broad knowledge of the law and the ability to make the difficult decisions that need to be made.”

Thorne said it has “been my distinct honor and privilege to serve the citizens of La Porte County as the Judge of the La Porte Superior Court 3 and I hope to continue that service for another six years.”

Thorne grew up in Michigan City, and graduated from Elston High School, Indiana University and the Valparaiso University School of Law. He is married with two adult daughters.


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Michigan City Salvation Army hits 98% of Red Kettle campaign goal

MICHIGAN CITY — The Salvation Army of Michigan City announced Tuesday that it has reached 98.8 percent of the $200,000 goal it set for its annual holiday fundraising campaign.

“We set a lofty goal this year of $200,000,” said Major Becky Simmons, corps officer of the local Salvation Army. “But raising $197,724.43 puts us very close to achieving that goal and we are very happy with the results of this campaign.”

The Salvation Army sets a campaign goal every Christmas season, money raised through the annual Red Kettle campaign, along with online/mail-in donations and sponsorship dollars, Simmons said.

These funds help serve needy families during the holidays, but also help The Salvation Army operate throughout the year, she said.

“All of the money raised through our Christmas campaign stays right here in Michigan City to meet the needs of people who are struggling with basic needs – funding programs such as our food pantry, men’s shelter, weekend backpack feeding program, utility assistance and diaper bank,” Simmons said.

Also supported by donations from the Christmas Campaign is the Pathway of Hope program, the newest program implemented by the local Salvation Army.

“This program works with the entire family with intense case management in hopes of breaking the cycle of generational poverty,” Simmons said.

In 2018, The Salvation Army of Michigan City set a Christmas Campaign goal of $160,000 and easily met that goal by raising more than $170,000, Simmons said.

She said she was initially concerned about setting a higher goal this year, but the higher amount was necessary to continue meeting the volume of clients served by The Salvation Army.

The Christmas Campaign goal is set every year based on the annual budget, Simmons said.

“With an increase in the number of ‘working poor’ we are seeing in the community, we have seen a definite increase in the number of families and individuals being served every month,” she said.

And she said the community answered the call.

“We could not have gotten this close to achieving our goal without the tremendous generosity and support of the community,” Simmons said.

“Michigan City is a place of such giving people, businesses and organizations – we are just overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we’ve seen over the holidays. Our campaign giving season will continue through the end of January, so donors are still welcome to contribute a gift to support our services.”

Specifically, The Salvation Army would like to acknowledge:

Christmas Campaign co-chairs for the 2019 season, Chuck and Rita Oberlie, along with Tom and Sandy Cipares

gold level Christmas Campaign sponsors including Blue Chip Casino, Hotel and Spa; Horizon Bank, and Central States Manufacturing

the many volunteers who spent numerous hours ringing a bell at one of 12 kettle sites

the businesses that hosted red kettles

anyone who made a donation, large or small, during the holiday season.

More information, including ways to donate or volunteer, is available at sa michigancity.org or by calling 219-874-6885.