Hogsett: Violent Crimes Initiative working
Friday, March 30, 2012 11:00 AM
A year after announcing his Violent Crime Initiative to combat the most violent offenders in the area, Joe Hogsett, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, is already gearing up for the next year.
The Violent Crime Initiative was launched in March 2011 in an effort to get the most violent offenders off the streets, with the focus mainly being on gun-related offenses.
In the first nine months of the initiative, there were 103 gun-related charges that were prosecuted federally through Hogsett's office. That compares with just 14 from all of 2010.
Hogsett, who represents 60 counties in Indiana, said he's pleased with how the Violent Crimes Initiative has gone so far. He visited The Madison Courier on Thursday.
"I bet we prosecuted federal matters in at least half of the 60 counties," he said.
There are several advantages to federal prosecution of violent crimes, Hogsett said:
Violent criminals can often be detained before trial without bond.
Defendants who are convicted often face longer, stiffer sentences.
Federal rules mandate that 85 percent of a federal sentence must be served, as opposed to 50 percent of a sentence that is typically served in locally-prosecuted cases.
Hogsett plans to continue the Violent Crime Initiative in 2012, along with increasing enforcement on white-collar crimes and public corruption, as well as finding a way to increase the safety of law enforcement officers.
One of the plans Hogsett has for the upcoming year is to add an assistant district attorney to the Evansville branch of his office who would exclusively with the New Albany district, which includes Jefferson and Switzerland counties.
Hogsett hopes to increase the presence of federal law enforcement - particularly the Drug Enforcement Administration - in smaller communities in the coming year.
"We're not going to declare victory and move on," Hogsett said. "This is a never-ending challenge."
The Violent Crimes Initiative brought three indictments to local residents in 2011. The first case to be taken federally was that of Jason Helm, 31, of Madison.
Helm was arrested for emailing 14 images of "minors appearing to be less than two years of age engaged in sexually explicit conduct," according to court records.
Helm pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced in the district court in New Albany on April 11.
The second case taken federally under Hogsett's initiative was for Willard Napier, 65, of Patriot. Court documents show Napier received $52,717.60 in disability benefits from the Social Security Administration from 2006 to 2011. During that time, he also worked as a commercial fisherman on the Ohio River.
Napier pleaded guilty to fraud charges and will be sentenced April 10, Hogsett said.
The other case to be taken federally was against Courtney L. Crouch 54, of Deputy.
During the execution of a federal search warrant on Crouch's home, authorities found more than $30,000 in cash, cocaine, marijuana, hydrocodone and several weapons, according to court records.
At the initial hearing, Hogsett's staff argued for Crouch to be detained before the trial. The judge allowed for a supervised release and for Crouch to report to probation, Hogsett said.
One day, Crouch did not show up. Since then, authorities have not been able to locate him.
"Whether he's incarcerated or he's a fugitive, he's not bothering people in Jefferson and Jennings counties. We certainly intend to find Mr. Crouch and bring him to justice," Hogsett said.