The sheriff serving the suburbs of the nation's 11th largest city, who vowed to "taunt the hell out of the press" during his last eight months in office, has been ordered to lift a gag on his deputies' contacts with the press.
Marion County Sheriff Donald E. Gilman, known as "Diamond Don" because of the jewelry he sports, declared war on the media in Indianapolis after being easily defeated for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in the May 2 Indiana primary.
After the vote, the flamboyant 47-year-old sheriff not only barred all deputies from talking with the press, but also denied reporters access to routine arrest, jail, crime and accident reports.
Last week State Court Judge Mercer M Mance issued a temporary restraining order against the gag but delayed hearing on a permanent injunction because Gilman was not in court.
The incident is the most recent in a series of controversies Gilman has been embroiled in since he was appointed March 12, 1977 to complete a term made vacant by the death of Sheriff Lawrence Broderick, who was killed in an automobile accident.
Gilman who has shaken up the sheriff's department with a variety admitted in a soul-baring interview near the end of his first month in office that he was a heavy gambler, losing up to $19,000 on one trip to the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas. A high school dropout who parlayed a health spa chain into a million-dollar fortune, Gilman later vowed to sell his cadillac, not wear his diamonds and stay clear of the gaming tables "until I prove myself to the people and my men."
He said he wanted people to think of him as "Mr. Clean," and concluded the interview stating, "I might go down in history as a legend - the biggest high roller ever to be respected as a cop."
Last July Gilman put his jewelry back on as evidence he had proven himself to the people and his men and declared himself a candidate for election in the next sheriff's race. But Marion County Democratic Party officials had washed their hands of him.
State legislators began questioning Gilman's pay when the Indiana General Assembly convened in January. Although his official salary is $20,750 a year, by law Gilman receives 10 percent of all delinquent state taxes in the county and profits from selling cigarettes, candy and razor blades to jail prisoners. It has been calculated the potential earnings of the Marion County sheriff exceed $150,000 a year.
Gilman kept a relatively low profile during the early months of this year. To improve press relations, he showed up at the annual Indianapolis Press Club Grid Iron to be roasted.
However, the truce ended in late March when Paul Joseph Ray was shot by Indiana state police in a parking lot. Reporters, learning that Ray had been issued a special deputy permit despite having a criminal record, asked to see a list of all persons given such permits by the sheriff.
Gilman initially refused, leading to local press charges that he was maintaining a "secret police force." Blasting the press, Gilman revoked the permits of more then 800 special deputies that empowered them to carry fire-arms and make arrests.
Gilman did not seriously compete in the Democratic slating convention prior to the primary, instead taking his case to the people with radio and newspaper ads in an attempt to win the nomination. The ads contended the "politicians, the press and the wheeler-dealers" were hiding the fact he had reduced crime, saved taxpayers' money and established more objective hiring and promotional procedures.
Privately even some of GIlman's critics conceded he has made many improvements in the sheriff's department and do not dispute the lower crime rate.
When the primary votes were tallied, Gilman was defeated 13,248 to 4,466 by Deputy James L.Wells, known as the "County Mounty" by listeners of his daily radio broadcast about rush hour traffic conditions.
The day after the primary, in his last press interview, Gilman lashed out at politicians calling for his resignation and told a reporter, "The first 14 months in office were work. The next eight months will be fun and I am going to enjoy it."
He added: "I am going to taunt the hell out of the press."