Taxpayers on the hook after DNR officer's false statements got a woman arrested
Taxpayers are on the hook for damages and legal bills after a woman was arrested because of false statements made by an Indiana Department of Natural Resources officer.
That’s what the state Supreme Court decided in a recent ruling.
Kailee Leonard accidentally hit and killed the dog of DNR officer Scott Johnson in front of his home. She left the scene and returned shortly after to tell Johnson what had happened.
Months later, Johnson told a local prosecutor she hadn’t returned until the next day. That led to Leonard being charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Those charges were eventually dropped. She then sued Johnson in federal civil court.
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Leonard won that case, with Johnson ordered to pay more than $60,000 in damages and costs. Indiana law allows state employees to pass on those costs to the government — if the employee’s actions were “noncriminal.”
The state Supreme Court said they were. It said there’s no evidence to show that Johnson “knowingly lied,” which would be the criminal act. And the court ruling means that the state is now responsible for paying Leonard and her attorney what they’re owed.