Indianapolis, IN – A high-ranking Indianapolis police official was demoted after he wrote a letter in support of a lenient sentence for a friend who was convicted of rape.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Major Michael Jefferson was busted down to the rank of lieutenant after his bosses at the police department found out that he had questioned the integrity of the police investigation in his letter, the Indianapolis Star reported.
"I know him to be honest, hardworking, dependable and a great father," then-Maj. Jefferson wrote in a letter to the sentencing judge. "As I understand it this is a questionable case."
Now-Lieutenant Jefferson, a 27-year veteran of the police force, was also stripped of his leadership position at the Community Engagement Office as a result of his actions in support of a convicted rapist.
Lance Fleming, 58, was convicted of raping a female friend in 2015 while he was at her home to make a repair to her door, the Indianapolis Star reported.
"[Fleming] was charged and openly convicted of that crime. Then we have someone representing our department asking for leniency in sentencing," Indianapolis Metropolitan Assistant Police Chief Randal Taylor said. "That gives a bad taste to the victim, the detective and everyone involved in that."
The Indianapolis Metropolitan PD has general orders that govern when and how a member of the department may act on behalf of a defendant, and they are required to get permission in advance from their superior officers, according to the Indianapolis Star.
"At the least, he should have contacted me to run it by me prior to sending that letter," Chief Taylor said. "That was never done. I wouldn’t have authorized it in the first place."
The chief said that such a letter from a member of the police department sends the wrong message to the rape victim.
“She’s a victim. She deserves respect,” he said. “We take all cases very seriously, especially one involving such a terrible crime.”
Then-Maj. Jefferson’s letter to the court identified himself by name and department rank, and characterized the defendant as a “productive citizen” with whom the police major served in the Indiana National Guard for several years.
"During my career, I have been around many evil people that deserve to be put in jail for a very long time," Maj. Jefferson wrote. "[Fleming] doesn't come close to fitting in that category."
He asked the judge in his letter to refrain from putting Fleming behind bars and instead to give him house arrest or supervised probation.
Despite then-Maj. Jefferson’s compelling letter, a Marion County judge sentenced Fleming to five years in state prison, WTTV reported.
After he is released, Fleming will go on the state’s sex offender registry for life.
"He committed a crime and was convicted of that crime. This is not a minor crime, it's a felony. Then we have one of our people stepping in trying to get leniency. It's not our place," Chief Taylor told WTTV.