Sex offender jail release complicates Marion County sheriff’s race

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 4, 2014)-- The future of law enforcement in Marion County is on the line but a convicted sex offender, who has spent the last four days walking in and out of the Marion County Jail, keeps getting in the way of the sheriff's race.

Torrey Pargo, 27, was released by jail deputies Saturday night due to a coding mistake on an order issued by Marion Superior Court 15, but Sheriff John Layton's staff did not employ their own checks-and-balances to detect the court's mix up.

Republican challenger Emmitt Carney and Mayor Greg Ballard made the most of the latest in a long list of inadvertent releases from the jail.

"I'm here today because we need new leadership at the Marion County jail," said Ballard when he stood by Carney's side on Election Eve, "and Emmitt Carney is a law enforcement professional who will put an end to the now 23 prisoners who have been released from the jail by mistake."

"They just keep talking about the same one trying to pound us into the ground," said Layton minutes after casting his ballot at a Homecroft precinct, "and the bottom line is, you know, even that one wasn't the sheriff's office and it's proven."

Layton told FOX59 that Judge John Chavis apologized for his staff's mistake and the Court Administrator issued a finding Sunday night that the court was to blame.

"We have given all the news stations proof of that but yet one news station continues to say it is even though they know the truth and that's sad. That's really sad."

Layton was referring to reports on FOX59 that provided the basis for Carney's Election Day criticism of his opponent and his minimizing of the number of mistaken releases compared to the 65,000 offenders who come through the jail every year.

"It should be zero tolerance," said Carney after voting on Indianapolis' westside. "Less than one percent or that 00.25 he said is too much. I mean, we’re talking about violent people, sexual predators, we’re talking about innocent people. You read the news about what happens in other states. We don’t need that to happen here."

Layton has emphasized his department's committment to cracking down on sex offenders yet, ironically, Pargo was arrested in August for failing to register as a sex offender. He was mistakenly released Saturday, re-arrested Sunday to be sent to Community Corrections to be fitted for a GPS electronic monitoring device only to be arrested yet again Monday as the result of a drug investigation earlier this year.

"You know what, crime knows no party," said Carney as he held out hope that democrats and independents would cross over to support his bid. "Crime just knows crime and sexual predators…he’s not gonna go up and say, 'Are you a republican or democrat or independent or liberal or tea party?' They’re going to go up and do what they want to do. So, I think it is definitely crossing all party lines."

Layton, whose candidacy and staff has been on edge recently despite Marion County overwhelming democratic demographics, is relying on his 40 years of local law enforcement experience as opposed to Carney's career as a federal agent.

"It's the experience that's what it comes down to," he said. "This county has problems right now and the last thing you want to do is to put a plumber in a brain surgeon's job."

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