The Democrat mayor of Michigan City, Indiana, Ron Meer, has been hit with eight criminal charges just days prior to an election, after he became embroiled in a controversy with the city’s police department allegedly related to the arrest of his adult step-son in October on drug charges, NBC affiliate WNDU reports.
Meer faces two misdemeanor counts of false informing “resulting in substantial hindrance to law enforcement” as well as six felony counts that include intimidation and official misconduct.
Those charges stem from allegations put forward by the now-former Police Chief Mark Swistek, who resigned in protest along with two assistant chiefs, after claiming to have been directed by Meer to withdraw the city’s police officers from the LaPorte County Drug Task Force.
The NWI Times reported that the controversy first erupted in October when Meer’s step-son, 33-year-old Adam Bray, was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine and heroin, as well as the unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious felon and resisting law enforcement.
At that time, Meer accused the prosecutor and police of political motivations in the arrest of his step-son and said in a statement, “It is no coincidence this is occurring just a couple of weeks before the election.” Meer, the incumbent mayor, is running for a third term on Nov. 5 against a Republican and two independent challengers.
Swistek and the two assistant chiefs submitted their resignations on Oct. 24 and cited as the reason for their departures the fact that they had all refused to obey an order by Meer to withdraw the city from the county drug task force. Local CBS affiliate WSBT reported that the resigning officers said such a move would place the community at an “unacceptable risk.”
In a statement released by Meer following those resignations, he insisted he never meant to imply that he would reassign any officers or withdraw the city’s cooperation with the task force. Meer said, “I apologized for my choice of words to the chief during a private, heated discussion, and I apologize to the members for the Michigan City Police Department, especially to the detectives currently assigned to the Drug Task Force.”
Charges unsealed in advance of election
As for the charges against Meer, an attorney named Scott King, who admitted to the Times that he had yet to thoroughly review the charges against Meer, nevertheless said he had “no idea what the prosecutor was thinking when he brought these charges.” King went to tell the media outlet, “I find it absolutely incredible that any reputable prosecutor would ask for charges on the eve of an election,” and added, “This really has a smell to it.”
However, LaPorte County prosecutor John Lake told the Times, “The case has absolutely nothing to do with any election.” Furthermore, Lake revealed that the criminal charges weren’t even supposed to have been made public yet.
The charges were initially filed on Wednesday, and a probable cause court document was added on Thursday, all of which was sealed. Yet, for reasons that remain unknown, the charges were unsealed by the court on Friday.
Potential political implications
In mid-October, in response to Meer’s initial allegation that the arrest of his step-son had been politically motivated in advance of the election, WSBT reported that Lake, in a local radio interview, said, “His theme, I’ve heard it on the radio, is ‘Keep a good thing going,’ and if ‘keep a good thing going’ means we’re going to have a two-tiered justice system in LaPorte County, I’m not going to keep a good thing going.”
It will be interesting to see if the criminal charges filed against the incumbent Democrat mayor will have an impact on the election and either lead to his resounding defeat or rally his supporters to turn out on his behalf.