Indianapolis, IN – Three Indiana circuit court judges were suspended on Tuesday in connection with a drunken brawl that left two of the justices with bullet wounds at a White Castle.
The incident began on April 30 after Clark County Circuit Court Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs and Crawford County Circuit Judge Sabrina Bell arrived in Indianapolis to attend the Spring Judicial College, KIRO reported.
The judges checked into their hotel and then went out drinking and socializing.
Court documents showed the trio hooked up with another colleague, Clark Circuit Court Magistrate William Dawkins, at about 12:30 a.m. on May 1 with the intention of going to the Red Garter Gentleman’s Club but found the strip club had already closed, KIRO reported.
So they walked over to a nearby White Castle restaurant.
Dawkins went inside White Castle while the Adams, Jacobs, and Bell remained outside chatting, according to KIRO.
As they were standing there, two men drove by and said something out their window to the judges.
The incident was captured by the White Castle security cameras and the video showed Bell responded by giving the men – later identified as Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser – her middle finger, KIRO reported.
“Judge Bell extended her middle finger to Vazquez and Kaiser, who pulled into the White Castle parking lot and exited the vehicle. Judge Bell, who was intoxicated, has no memory of the incident but concedes that the security camera video shows her making this gesture,” according to the unanimous ruling handed down by the Indiana Supreme Court.
A verbal confrontation occurred and then it rapidly became physical, KIRO reported.
The court’s ruling said that Bell told investigators after the incident that she felt responsible for what had happened, NBC News reported.
"I'm fiery and I'm feisty, but if I would have ever thought for a second that they were gonna fight or that that guy had a gun on him, I would never, never ...," Bell is quoted saying in the ruling.
Charging documents said that the judges moved toward Vazquez and Kaiser prior to the fight becoming physical, and that none of the justices tried to de-escalate the situation.
Adams and Vazquez began punching each other and Jacobs and Kaiser took their hand-to-hand struggle to the ground, KIRO reported.
“At one point, Judge Jacobs had Kaiser contained on the ground. With his fist raised back, Judge Jacobs said, ‘Okay, okay, we’re done, we’re done,’ or ‘This is over. Tell me this is over,’ or words to that effect,” according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
That’s when Vazquez tried to get Jacobs off Kaiser. When Kaiser tried to sit up, Adams kicked him in the back, KIRO reported.
The court’s ruling said that Kaiser pulled out a gun and opened fire on the judges.
Adams was shot in the abdomen and Jacobs took two rounds in his chest, KIRO reported.
Bell called 911 as Vazquez and Kaiser fled, according to the ruling.
They were arrested four days later and initially charged with attempted murder, battery, aggravated battery, and carrying a handgun without a license, according to KIRO.
A grand jury looked into the conduct of the judges that night, and on June 28, Adams was indicted on two counts of felony battery resulting in moderate injury, four counts of misdemeanor battery, and one count of disorderly conduct.
Adams was suspended the day he was indicted, and he pleaded guilty to a single count of misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury on Sept. 9 for kicking Kaiser, KIRO reported.
The remainder of the charges were dismissed.
He was sentenced to a year in jail, with all but two days suspended, and was given credit for already having served those two days, KIRO reported.
The grand jury opted not to indict Jacobs after an investigation, and Bell was never facing any criminal charges.
But the justices’ behavior did not escape notice of the state’s highest court, and all three of the judges involved faced censure from their bench, KIRO reported.
Adams published an apology letter to the community in local newspapers after the incident, and Jacobs released a statement through his attorneys.
Both accepted responsibility for their actions and apologized for the embarrassment they had caused the courts and their families, KIRO reported.
The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Adams for 60 days without pay, NBC News reported.
They also suspended Jacobs and Bell for 30 days each, also without pay.
Kaiser is facing 14 counts of aggravated battery, battery with a deadly weapon, battery, carrying an unlicensed handgun, and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, NBC News reported.
He is scheduled for trial in January.
Vazquez, Kaiser’s nephew, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in November, according to NBC News.
He was sentenced to 180 days of home detention, followed by a one year’s probation.