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New evidence surfaces in Fleming complaint

Supreme Court requests transcript of newly-discovered phone call

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James Fleming.

After a hearing officer cast doubt on the Indiana Disciplinary Commission’s case against former Howard County Prosecutor James Fleming in May, new evidence surfaced in the case.

On June 26 the Indiana Supreme Court entered an order regarding the disciplinary complaint against Fleming, demanding a transcript be prepared of a telephone conversation between two witnesses in the case. It’s unclear what the content of the telephone conversation is, but it appears to predate the trials where it’s alleged Fleming illegally paid a witness thousands of dollars.

The order, signed by the hearing officer that presided over the case in May, Robert Reiling Jr., read, “The Disciplinary Commission and counsel for the respondent have brought to the court’s attention newly discovered evidence regarding a telephone conversation that took place between two of the witnesses on May 27, 2010.

“The parties are in agreement that a transcript of that telephone conversation will be submitted and that the Disciplinary Commission shall have the right to depose [Kokomo Police Department] Detective [Mike] Banush and submit that deposition as supplemental testimony.”

Reiling further ordered that both parties in the case have 30 days to submit the transcript and conduct the deposition of Banush. It’s not explicitly stated within the order that Banush is a witness in the call in question.

Banush was the lead detective on the 2008 murder case at the center of the commission’s case. The commission alleged in its initial complaint that Fleming paid the key witness, Launden Luckett, thousands of dollars and paid for the relocation of his girlfriend as part of a plea deal that should have been disclosed to the defendants in that trial, as well as two other related cases.

While it’s unclear what the content of the newly-discovered phone call is, some information can be inferred from the date of the conversation. The call in question occurred at the tail end of May 2010, which predated any of the trials Luckett testified in. The first, the murder trial of Jesse Harris, occurred in July 2010. The second, a related jury trial of Michael Yates, occurred on September 2010.

This conversation also occurred after Fleming had moved Luckett’s girlfriend, Cecily Dickey, using the same funds Luckett later was paid with throughout the course of his stay in prison. Both factors are part of what the commission argued were part of a plea deal that never was disclosed to jurors and defendants in the Harris and Yates trials.

The information within the phone call could make or break either side’s case. If the conversation showed that Luckett was promised the funding prior to giving trial testimony, the information would go toward the state’s case that Luckett was well aware that he would be paid for his testimony. Or, it could somehow prove Fleming’s case. His counsel argued during the May hearing that the decision to pay Luckett came after his testimony, with no promises made to him that he would be paid for his witness testimony.

Previously, Reiling ordered that the state submit a closing argument within 30 days of the completion of a transcript from the May hearing. The transcript was submitted on June 3. The new development likely will extend the case’s conclusion.

Fleming’s attorney did not return a request for comment, and both KPD and the commission declined to comment.