A member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was reprimanded in court Wednesday for sending IMPD command staff detailed summaries of witness testimony from the David Bisard trial via e-mail.
Judge John Surbeck called IMPD Major Greg Bieberich to the stand under oath, ordering him to cease all e-mail communications about the trial.
Lead prosecutor Denise Robinson discovered the issue Tuesday night, after being forwarded a copy of the e-mails. Robinson also forwarded the e-mails to defense attorney John Kautzman.
“We have serious, serious concerns to the extent that this email may have been forwarded to other members of police department, potential witnesses on both sides, and whether the info was privy to witnesses before they testified,” Kautzman said.
Robinson told the judge she did not believe any witnesses were on the distribution list, but said at least one witness may have been forwarded the mail.
After learning of the communications, Judge Surbeck said he wanted to call the officer to the stand.
“That’s the first thing,” Surbeck said. “Who’s writing the damn emails? And is he currently here this morning?”
Surbeck then called Bieberich to the stand to testify under oath.
“This is to cease immediately,” he told Bieberich, who was been in the gallery for the entire trial, taking notes.
“In my mind, it’s nothing that taints the witnesses,” Robinson said. “(But) it certainly has an appearance I don’t like, and that’s why told them to stop it.”
“It’s about as unprofessional as anything I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a lot of things about the IMPD,” said Judge Surbeck. “Maybe it’s time chief of police appeared here to tell us what’s going on under oath. Don’t know if that’s necessary or not but it’s one alternative.”
Judge Surbeck said he would look into the issue after obtaining copies of the distribution list. Testimony continued, and the jury brought back in, after Bieberich took the stand to explain his actions to the judge.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office advised the Department of Public Safety Tuesday night about the email issue. IMPD has made copies of all the emails available to the prosecutor and is conducting an ongoing search to make sure all the emails are accounted for.
Officer Bieberich was assigned to monitor the trial by Police Chief Rick Hite.