MICHIGAN CITY – The state will not pursue a criminal case against a local man accused by the mayor of threatening to “shoot up” City Hall last November.
La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake said he made the decision after watching 14 hours of video footage and determining no "direct or credible" threat had been made to give his office probable cause to prosecute Rodney Joseph McCormick on a felony intimidation charge.
“The story of the mayor on police body cams changes on what was said,’’ Lake said Tuesday. “If you totally believe everything the mayor is saying, his first comment is that Rodney said, ‘I might have to shoot this place up.’ … ‘I might have to’ relates to a future event. That’s not intimidation; that’s not a threat.”
Lake said Mayor Ron Meer is recorded making his accusation three separate times, each with a slight but significant variation: first, that McCormick said he “might” shoot up City Hall; then, that he “ought to” shoot up City Hall; and finally, that he was “going to” shoot up City Hall.
“Even if you take the very first statement where Mayor Meer said Rodney said he ‘might’ or ‘ought to’ do this – that just doesn’t rise to the charge of intimidation under Indiana law,” Lake said. “It speaks to the future … and it has to be a present thing.”
Furthermore, Lake said, McCormick passed a polygraph – lie detector – test while maintaining he never threatened the mayor or City Hall.
“It is my opinion that … Rodney McCormick was not deceptive in his responses to the relevant questions asked of him during his polygraph examination conducted on May 3, 2019,” Michael Turk of Investigations, Polygraph & Consulting Services LLC wrote in his report.
McCormick’s attorney, Michelle Bazin-Johnson, issued a statement Friday in relation to the case.
“On a personal level, Mr. McCormick is deeply troubled that the mayor purposefully placed Mr. McCormick in a perilous situation by claiming without corroboration of any kind that McCormick ‘had a gun and was threatening to shoot up City Hall,’ given the number of wrongful deaths of blacks at the hands of the police across the nation,” she wrote.
McCormick, an outspoken critic of Meer who had been campaigning outside the courthouse on Nov. 2, 2018, said he went to City Hall to retrieve political signs that had been confiscated from the sidewalk when he entered the building. It was inside where he encountered the mayor.
“I never even had a conversation with [Meer],” McCormick said in a phone interview Friday. “He came out of the blue and said, ‘You should have left my family out of this. Should have never said anything about my wife'.”
Shortly thereafter, McCormick found himself surrounded by police outside City Hall, he said.
“My opinion,” McCormick said, “is they wanted me locked up because I was getting too many people to come out and vote.”
While officers investigated at the scene, McCormick maintained a live video feed from his cell phone and interacted with Facebook followers who watched.
Michigan City Police confiscated the phone and turned it over to Indiana State Police, who handled the investigation.
McCormick said Friday his phone has yet to be returned; and Lake said the phone was searched without a warrant.
The mayor declined to comment Friday in response to the dismissal of the intimidation charge.
“In regards to this matter, I have an active protective order against Mr. McCormick,” Meer said. “There is also an active La Porte County Sheriff’s Department investigation in regards to breach of the protective order and charge of invasion of privacy. With active investigations and court proceedings occurring, I do not believe it would be proper for me to comment further on this matter.”
The alleged violation of the mayor’s protective order was filed May 6, but McCormick said Friday he has yet to be arrested for it.
“They’re alleging that I stood outside talking on my Facebook page and that I was talking about the mayor. … They’re shopping around trying to get a judge to sign a warrant, but political speech is protected in the United States of America,” he said.
According to court records, Judge Greta Friedman in La Porte Superior Court 4 recused herself from hearing the newest criminal charge. The county clerk moved it to La Porte Circuit Court, pending Judge Thomas Alevizos’ acceptance.
Records show criminal cases filed locally against McCormick tend to be transferred outside the county.
“They don’t want to be involved with it,” he said of La Porte County courts. “Instead of doing the right thing and dismissing these cases, they push it on to the next judge … I’ve been arrested 42, 43 times, but the charges are always dismissed or I’m found not guilty.”
“McCormick has the absolute right to engage in political speech," Bazin-Johnson said, "to rally the community to vote and to make issues known to the politicians. McCormick will continue to defend this right, not only for himself but for all citizens of Michigan City and La Porte County.”
Transcript: Rodney McCormick's lie detector test by Investigations, Polygraph & Consulting Services LLC
On Nov. 2, 2018, did you make any threatening comments to physically harm then Mayor Ron Meer?
On Nov. 2, 2018, while in the City Hall at Michigan City, did you personally threaten then Mayor Ron Meer?
On Nov. 2, 2018, did you threaten to shoot up the City Hall at Michigan City?
Prior to Nov. 2, 2018, did you ever drive by Roberta Avenue in front of then Mayor Ron Meer’s house?
Have you been completely truthful with me today?