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Former court reporter’s theft trial pushed back again

Latest in string of delays comes Rachael Roberts’ attorney moves to suppress evidence

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It’s been more than four years since an investigation was launched into whether a former Howard Superior II employee illegally overcharged for work, allegedly accruing nearly $10,000 in illegal payments.

The case against former Howard Superior II court reporter Rachael Roberts has moved at a glacial pace since it began in the investigative stages in early 2015. Some time later, in May 2017, three level D felony charges of theft were filed for the alleged overbilling of transcription work, which by law is limited to a certain amount.

In total, investigators claimed Roberts overbilled by $9,476 for three transcriptions. As the case has dragged on after being assigned to a special prosecutor and languished in Boone Superior Court I after being reassigned to the court, yet another trial date has been pushed back in the case. The development came as Roberts’ defense attorney also moved to suppress evidence in the case.

Until just a few weeks ago, the case against Roberts finally was set to be heard before a jury in Boone County on Wednesday. That trial date represented the fourth for the case, and the date even had been emblazoned with “no continuances” in online records. That is before the court, according to court records, moved to cancel the trial due to “concerns as to whether enough time [had] been allotted for this trial and to hear substantive pre-trial motions.”

The case originally was scheduled to go to trial on April 18, 2018.

A partial reason for the delay may be due to a motion to suppress filed by Roberts’ attorney. In that motion her attorney claimed the former court reporter’s rights were violated by investigators.

According to the filing, on Feb. 13, 2015, police searched Roberts’ Russiaville home as well as her work premises in Superior II. Then investigators applied for a second warrant a few days later to search Roberts’ bank records. In the motion to suppress it’s argued that “it does not appear that the warrant or subpoena was issued for a search of [Roberts’] bank records” and a return was not prepared for that warrant either.

The former court reporters’ attorney, in the filing, goes on to argue that the searches were warrantless, violating her Fourth Amendment rights. The filing states that police elicited statements from Roberts in violation of her Miranda and Fifth Amendment rights and that, because the warrants did not “specifically list items to be searched for and seized,” they were overly broad.

Furthermore, it’s claimed the warrants were “not issued by a neutral and detached magistrate.” This claim references Howard Superior I Judge William Menges, who issued the search warrants, and it’s argued that since he was a witness in the investigation, initiated the investigation in part, and also is related to Roberts, then that constitutes a violation of Roberts’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Together Howard County Auditor Martha Lake and Menges played a role in bringing the alleged overbillings to the attention of investigators. As such, Roberts’ defense counsel requested that all items seized, observations, and statements gathered during the execution of the search warrants be suppressed.

The court granted the motion to supress last week, but the court’s decision could not be procured prior to deadline. The trial is set now for Feb. 24, 2020.