LaPorte County Commissioner David Decker, who is seeking re-election to that office in the Nov. 8, 2016, election, is facing a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a property damage accident that occurred on Oct. 26, 2016, according to Indiana State Police.
Decker was booked at the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office at about 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, after turning himself in. He immediately posted a cash bond of $205 and was released at approximately 11:30 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office.
Decker read this statement at the start of the LaPorte County Commission meeting Wednesday morning, Nov. 2:
“I’ve got a statement I’d like to read. All of you have read about the events of one week ago. As I think back, it’s clear to me I made a real mistake in not taking the time to get a good, close look at the other vehicle. I was in a hurry, it was raining and I had a meeting that I was late for.
“I admit that I made a mistake. I’m human. Sometimes we all get in a hurry. I honestly believed there was no damage to the SUV, and my mistake was looking over at that bumper from too far away and not taking the time to go up right next to that vehicle and get a better look.
“We all have had situations in crowded parking lots where you have to instantly assess whether it’s just a casual bump or whether it’s something more serious where insurance information should be exchanged.
I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. I had no reason to hide anything. If I had known there was damage, I would have filed a report. I have insurance. When the issue was brought to my attention, I immediately reported it to my insurance company. I fully cooperated with everyone.
“I also did not flee the scene. I had business in the county building across the street, and parked my truck there when I saw a spot opened up. My truck was there for over two hours, as I had three different meetings that afternoon at the Complex and the Hiler Building.
“I was surprised when I was charged with leaving the scene, as I was in the county buildings for several hours, and the police officer left me with the impression that I had not done anything wrong. That misdemeanor situation, as well as the issue of any property damage that I may have caused, will be properly resolved.
“This experience has been a humbling one, and has served as an unnecessary distraction for the county. I am sorry for this. And, the bottom line is that none of this would have happened if I had taken the timet o properly look at the other vehicle. That’s my mistake, and I also apologize for that.”
The release from the state police Lowell post:
“The Indiana State Police were contacted by LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office to investigate a leaving the scene property damage crash. The crash occurred in a parking lot located at 555 Michigan Ave., LaPorte. This is a parking lot located east of the LaPorte County Complex government center. First Sergeant Al Williamson assigned Master Trooper Randy Palmer to investigate the crash. Palmer’s investigation revealed that on 10/26/16 a gray 2011 Ford pickup truck was observed entering the parking lot and making a right turn. During this time the Ford sideswiped the rear bumper of a blue 2002 Ford Explorer that was parked and unoccupied in the lot. The suspect vehicle then left the scene, failing to remain at the scene. The driver failed to provide his operator’s name, address, registration and other information as required by statute.
“Further investigation revealed that the suspect is David Decker, 71, of Union Mills. Williamson forwarded the case to the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office for review of charges. A warrant was issued for Mr. Decker for leaving the scene of a property damage crash, a Class B misdemeanor. Decker has turned himself in to the LaPorte County Jail, where he has been processed and released.”
Decker’s attorney, Stephen Scheele, released this letter to the media this morning (Nov. 1):
“This will confirm my office’s representation of David Decker with respect to a misdemeanor charge of “Leaving the Scene of an Accident,” filed against him for a minor car bumper scrape that allegedly occurred in a county-owned parking lot on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
“The low-level nature of the scraped bumper raises a question of whether any report was required. That issue aside, Mr. Decker did not leave the scene; he remained on the county premises for hours after the alleged event. Mr. Decker has been and remains fully cooperative with investigating law enforcement officials. He has reported the matter to his private auto insurance company, where it is being appropriately reviewed and handled.
“These types of events are civil in nature. In the rare instances that they do make it to court, they are in the small claims court; they do not warrant criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, the timing and nature of this misdemeanor charge smack of political motivation or retribution. Particularly troubling is that Mr. Decker’s political foes were making fodder of this prosecution before the formal filing of charges was even made public. Also troubling is that the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office, perhaps unwittingly, permitted itself to become a pawn of political gamesmanship.
“To that end, the circumstances of this misdemeanor filing are unfortunate. They wrongly impugn the integrity of a hardworking and decent public servant, retired steelworker and gentleman. They unnecessarily distract from the real issues in the days leading up to next week’s election. The voters of LaPorte County know better.
“Mr. Decker will be vigorously defended against a misdemeanor charge that should not have been filed. Further questions or concerns about this event may be directed to the undersigned.”
STEPHEN E. SCHEELE
GOODMAN, KATZ & SCHEELE
The LaPorte County GOP released this statement Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 1:
“Today, in the wake of the arrest of incumbent Democrat Commissioner Dave Decker, as a result of charges being filed against him for leaving the scene of an accident, the LaPorte County Republican Party expresses its disappointment and outrage for the manner in which Decker chose to deal with this matter.
“Decker’s initial response, in damaging another’s property, without contacting proper authorities or leaving his contact information, highlights the lack of accountability he has to the public. Decker had admitted to hitting the vehicle, only after being confronted with video from a county security camera. Despite this, he said to reporters, ‘(I am) confident that after speaking with the investigating officer that there is no allegation of wrongdoing on my part.’ This shows that even with clear and convincing proof of wrongdoing, Decker is unable to hold himself responsible for his actions, apologize, and accept the repercussions. These repercussions may include up to 180 days of jail time.
“County Republican Chair Michael Gonder stated, ‘Unfortunately, this hit and run is not the first time the citizens of LaPorte County have seen this kind of unethical behavior from Dave Decker. He has yet to apologize to the public for knowingly passing up a $1 million matching grant for road repair from the state and hold himself accountable for the condition of our roads. As voters, we must make him face the consequences of his actions and vote him out.'”
Michael Gonder, chairman-LaPorte County Republican Party