INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this month, the Marion County Sheriff’s office mistakenly released a man who was connected to a fatal shooting in Minnesota and now FOX59/CBS4 has learned that another inmate was mistakenly released eight days before that.
Toriano Hellams, 41, was originally booked into the jail in August 2022, on numerous felony charges including battery of a police officer and resisting law enforcement.
The charges stem from an incident where Hellams was revived from an overdose and then attacked the police officers at the scene.
Court documents indicate Hellams “pulled, twisted and squeezed” an officer’s testicles. He also bit and attempted to choke an officer during the incident.
Hellams bailed out but was booked back into jail less than three months later on unrelated drug charges and that’s where he stayed until he was sentenced on Sept. 5 to two years in prison for attacking the officers.
As part of a plea agreement, his drug charges were dismissed.
However, the same day he was sentenced, Hellams walked out of the Marion County Jail.
Nobody even realized what had happened until Marion County Community Corrections was alerted nearly two weeks later. The agency applied for and was granted a warrant to have Hellams re-arrested, writing he was “erroneously” released.
After a lengthy back-and-forth with the sheriff’s office, community corrections and court administration, FOX59/cbs4 was able to get an answer as to how this happened.
It begins when a person is booked into jail. The sheriff’s office assigns them what’s called a “gallery number” which stays with the person forever, no matter how many times he or she is arrested.
Marion Superior Court Administrator Emily VanOsdol said for some reason, Hellams was assigned two different gallery numbers for his two separate cases.
“The court receives gallery numbers but does not assign them nor does it ever input them on any documentation, including sentencing documents,” VanOsdol said in a statement. “Anytime that a gallery number is generated on any court document that gallery number is what was sent to the court.”
When Hellams’ drug case was dismissed, he was released under the gallery number assigned to that case. However, he should’ve been held until he could be sent to the Indiana Department of Corrections to serve his sentence.
“The more individuals that are mistakenly released, and this is two in two weeks, the greater we might wonder how much is this happening,” said IU Law Professor Jody Madeira. “How effective are these, whether it’s a software program or a checklist system?”
In a statement, the sheriff’s office said they released Hellams “properly” based on the information they had at the time.
Hellams was re-arrested on Tuesday after being out and about for three weeks.
Hellams is the second individual who has been accidentally released from jail in Marion County in the last two weeks. Kevin Mason — a suspected murderer who allegedly shot and killed a man in Minnesota in 2021 — was accidentally let out of the Adult Detention Center on Sept. 13.
Police took Mason into custody on Sept. 11 and released him two days later. Mason was apprehended by United States Marshals Wednesday afternoon.
Madeira says these mistakes jeopardize public safety and believes a full review needs to take place.
“This isn’t some prison scheme like the Shawshank Redemption where there’s an elaborate escape plan,” Madeira said. “You can’t just have one check on the system, it’s a system that requires many layers of different checks.”
There is a group called the “Marion County Identity Group” which is comprised of all the players in the county’s criminal justice system that specifically deal with these issues.
The sheriff’s office said this incident will be referred to that committee to be fully investigated.