During the second week of suspended Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer David Bisard’s trial for a fatal drunk driving crash, Captain Harold Turner was called to testify about the drunk driving investigators called to the scene of accident on Indianapolis’ northeast side.
Assured that he wouldn’t be recalled as a witness, Turner sat in the back row of Judge John Surbeck’s Fort Wayne courtroom to watch other officers testify.
That’s when he spotted IMPD Major Greg Bieberich writing on a legal pad. Sources say that’s when it dawned on Turner that the investigations commander’s courtroom notes were the source for emails he had received detailing the previous week’s trial testimony.
Turner realized there was a problem.
Within minutes of adjournment on Day 5 of the case on Oct. 22, the Marion County prosecutor’s team was advised of the Bieberich emails.
Such email summaries generated by an IMPD commander and shared with officers who might be called to testify would constitute a violation of Judge John Surbeck’s Separation of Witnesses Order which is intended to keep witnesses from sharing information that could contaminate their testimonies.
Copies of those reports obtained by Fox 59 News indicate several summary synopsis emails were forwarded to the prosecutor’s office and Public Safety Director Troy Riggs’ staff that night.
Riggs told Fox 59 News that he told a disappointed Prosecutor Terry Curry at 10 p.m. that he would investigate the emails and send copies to Curry’s prosecutors.
The next morning, when Lead Trial Prosecutor Denise Robinson announced in court before jurors were seated that the emails had been circulated throughout the top command of IMPD, Judge Surbeck angrily speculated that he might have to call Chief Rick Hite to testify about the operations of his department, an organization the judge admitted he had learned too much about during his supervision of the trial.
Surbeck summoned Bieberich to stand before the bench as he ordered the veteran commander to cease and desist with the email summaries.
Fox 59’s review of the emails indicates that, by and large, they do not reveal any information that a close reading of news websites would not have reported during the trial.
However, the inclusion of several commanders, along with IMPD’s legal advisor Ted Nolting, on the address list makes the department, itself under scrutiny with its employees on the witness list, culpable in the potential violation of the judge’s order.
As IMPD’s counsel, Nolting would have been responsible for recognizing that the Bieberich emails raised a potential separation of witnesses issue.
“One juror…overheard a conversation…that Bisard is guilty,” wrote Bieberich on Oct. 16, recounting a discussion in the courtroom that was held outside of the presence of the jury. “And Bisard has been arrested for DUI since this incident.”
While the jurors would never have had access to Bieberich’s emails, it was typical of the type of privileged information Surbeck sought to keep from the jury and other witnesses.
“We were all very diligent in waiting to hear the end of the story,” a juror named Sherry told Fox 59 News. “I don’t think anybody made up their mind until the very last day.”
There were also fresh accounts revealed for the first time during that trial that most IMPD officers and perhaps potential police department witnesses did not know.
In describing Officer Daniel Ryan’s testimony Oct. 18, Bieberich wrote, “He advised…Bisard told him that he was worried about the results of a blood draw showing residual alcohol from his consumption of alcohol the night before the crash” and “he advised that Bisard told him…that he had been drinking vodka on the night of the crash.”
Bieberich also emailed Police Chief Hite, Deputy Chief Bill Lorah, Captain Val Cunningham, Lt. Michael Price and Nolting about other issues discussed while the jury was outside the courtroom.
“The defense was prohibited from getting into the facts of Stevens’ (sic) separation from LPD in front of the jury,” wrote Bieberich about the firing of Lawrence Police Lt. Stan Stephens who took possession of two vials of Bisard’s blood that were drawn on the day of the 2010 crash that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells.
“Outside the presence of the jury, the judge told attorneys that, in his opinion, the testimony reference the (sic) ‘2 high ranking females’ who went to the property room and inspected the blood viles (sic)…is not something that the jury needs to consider.”
Bieberich was referring to an argument over whether testimony about an April, 2012, off-the-books investigation into the Bisard blood vials by former Deputy Public Safety Director Ellen Corcella and IMPD Sgt. Dawn Higgins should be revealed in open court.
Subsequent emails indicate that some recipients passed on the Bieberich reports to other officers, including Turner, who was later called as a witness, as well as civilian employees and an Internal Affairs investigator.
“I found one,” Turner wrote to Deputy Prosecutor Tom Hirschauer at 8:29 p.m. on Oct. 22, hours after informing the prosecution team about the emails. “I have not read this one, but it is an example of what has been sent daily since the trial began.”
Bieberich, the second ranking commander in IMPD’s Investigations Division, was also directed by Hite to attend the trial to track the logistics and lodging arrangements for any officers called to testify.
Bieberich’s summaries end with Day 5 after he was admonished by the judge.
After the jury received the case and was sent from the courtroom Nov. 4, Surbeck announced that upon further review he did not find the emails to have affected the testimony of any IMPD witnesses.
Those emails will be released by Surbeck Tuesday following Bisard’s sentencing.