MICHIGAN CITY – Mayor Ron Meer was granted an Order of Protection against Rodney McCormick last month, but the ruling was made by a judge in Starke County, which the mayor called "disturbing."
It is "very unfortunate that as a public official, I had to go outside of La Porte County to have an order put into place to protect the safety of me and my family," Meer said.
"I don't understand why no judge in La Porte County will rule on something like this."
The mayor was also critical of La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake, who he said has a "peculiar relationship" with McCormick.
"I'm disappointed with the prosecutor's office," he said. "It's troubling that John Lake would speak in favor of Mr. McCormick at the hearing. I find that very peculiar," adding it appeared the prosecutor was protecting McCormick.
But Lake said he did not speak in McCormick's favor, and would not have spoken at all had he not been subpoenaed.
"I did not speak in favor of anyone," he said. "I was subpoenaed – I'm not sure why – but likely because I was the only one besides Indiana State Police with a copy of the video that was shot on Mr. McCormick's cell phone, and they subpoenaed me so the judge could watch it."
He said it was easier to just testify than to fight the subpoena, though an Order of Protection is a civil matter, and his office deals with criminal matters.
He denied protecting McCormick, and in fact, said he filed a criminal charge against him for violating the original restraining order filed against McCormick prior to the May primary election.
"We're not protecting anybody," Lake said.
And while the mayor said he was "concerned" with the prosecutor's office, Lake said, "A lot of things about this concern me."
He specifically mentioned three top police officials attending Judge Kim Hall's Michigan City hearing on the protective order against McCormick, and wearing body cams.
"They body-cammed the whole hearing. I always thought no court hearings could be videotaped," Lake said.
The prosecutor said he received calls and emails almost daily alleging crimes by McCormick in the days leading up to the primary, when the mayoral critic would often stand outside the Michigan City Courthouse campaigning against Meer.
"Most of those did not rise to the level of criminal charges," Lake said. "That's why they have protective orders."
He said he filed charges when McCormick violated the protective order.
The mayor said McCormick violated the initial order, issued following an incident at City Hall in November, when he "yelled at me and called me names" outside the courthouse, where the mayor and his family went to vote early.
"He then followed us into the courthouse ... I had to ask the La Porte County officers on duty to watch as we left. He violated the protectrive order," Meer said.
Lake said he filed charges following that incident.
Court records show McCormick was charged on May 6 with invasion of privacy in violation of the protective order. However, La Porte County judges Greta Stirling Friedman, Thomas Alevizos, Michael Bergerson and Richard Stalbrink all declined to hear the case, which was most recently sent to Judge Jeff Thorne in Superior Court 3 on July 12.
While the mayor was critical of the judges for recusing themselves, Lake said that has nothing to do with his office.
"I can't control the judges. I filed the charges in the case and then it's up to them," he said.
He said the mayor actually wanted more charges filed, but the incident did not rise to that level.
And the prosecutor added that a lot of the controversy is politically motivated.
"My office inherited a lot of this mess – it's a lot of political stuff," according to Lake.
"We try to do the best we can, but you can't just file charges because someone doesn't like someone else. You need probable cause."
Calls ruling unconstitutional
Rodney McCormick says a judge's order barring him from City Hall during regular business hours is an unconstitutional attempt to silence his criticism of the mayor.
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