On Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court temporarily suspended the three state judges for demeaning the judicial system and released an opinion detailing exactly how they ended up in a drunken melee at the fast-food chain.
“[Their] actions were not merely embarrassing on a personal level,” the State Supreme Court said in its ruling, but “they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary.”
On April 30, Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs, who have both been on the bench since 2015, drove about 100 miles north to Indianapolis the day before the state’s Spring Judicial College, a conference for judicial officers. After checking in, they met up with a close friend, Crawford County Judge Sabrina R. Bell, who took office in 2017.
After drinking at their hotel, the three judges met up with Magistrate William Dawkins. Around 3 a.m. on May 1, the group realized a strip club they had hoped to patronize was closed, according to the Indiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary ruling. From there, they walked to a White Castle. Dawkins went inside to order food, and the three judges stayed on the sidewalk.
Two strangers, Alfredo Vazquez, 24, and Brandon Kaiser, 41, cruised past in an SUV, and one of the men shouted out a window at Bell, who responded by holding up her middle finger. The gesture inspired Vazquez and Kaiser to pull over in the parking lot and get out of the car.
The men approached the judges. Vazquez and Bell shouted at one another. Then, a fight broke out.
Jacobs tackled Kaiser to the ground and held him there. He pulled his fist back, as if threatening to punch the man.
“Okay, okay, we’re done,” Jacobs said, according to court records. “This is over. Tell me this is over.”
Meanwhile, Vazquez and Adams exchanged blows, hitting and kicking each other, the Indianapolis Star reported. Vazquez tried to pull Jacobs off his companion, and the two men scuffled. Kaiser started to sit up, but Adams kicked him in the back, according to court records.
That’s when Kaiser drew his gun and fired a shot into Adams’s gut. He turned and shot two more rounds, hitting Jacobs in the chest. Vazquez and Kaiser allegedly fled the scene, the Star reported.
“I feel like this is all my fault,” Bell told police who responded.
Jacobs and Adams were rushed to the hospital for emergency surgeries. They both survived.
“We’re all very good friends and they’re very protective of me,” Bell later told police. “I’m afraid that I said something to those two strange men at first, and then they said something back to me. And then I said something and then [Adams and Jacobs] went to defend me.”
Although police did not test her blood alcohol level, Bell admitted to being so drunk she could not remember the fight or her initial statements to police, according to Tuesday’s disciplinary decision. Officers told her they had video of the altercation that showed her flipping off the two men in the car, sparking the fight.
“I’m not denying that I said something or egged it on,” she told the cops, according to court records. “Because I drink … I mean I fully acknowledge that I drink and get mouthy, and 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 …”
Adams spent a day in jail and was initially charged with felony battery, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor battery on Sept. 9, according to court records. He was sentenced to a year in jail, with 363 days suspended and credit for two days.
“I am fully aware of the embarrassment I have brought to the Indiana Judiciary, my family and specifically my community,” Adams said in a statement, the Star reported. “There is not a minute in the day that I don’t think about the significant repercussions my actions have caused. I take full responsibility for my actions as they neither met my expectations or the expectations placed upon me as a judicial officer. I again give my sincere apologies to my family and my community.”
Bell did not immediately return The Washington Post’s request for comment late Tuesday.
“I wholeheartedly apologize for my behavior that evening that has embarrassed the Indiana Supreme Court, my fellow judges and all the members of my chosen profession,” Jacobs said in a statement shared with The Post. “I cannot offer any excuses for the events of that evening, nor do I attempt to offer any excuses for those choices.”
Jacobs and Bell did not face criminal charges for her role in the fight.
Vazquez and Kaiser were both arrested and charged with crimes, according to court records. Vazquez was convicted of a probation violation and misdemeanor battery and sentenced to 180 days of home detention and one year of probation, the Star reported. Kaiser faces eight felony charges and six misdemeanors. His trial is set for January.
The state justices on Tuesday ordered Adams to serve a 60-day unpaid suspension in addition to the time he has already been away from the bench. He will be reinstated to the court on Jan. 13, 2020. Bell and Jacobs will be suspended without pay for 30 days, until Dec. 23.
“Respondents’ alcohol-fueled actions during the early morning hours of May 1, 2019, fell far short” of ethics requirements, the State Supreme Court said in its decision. “All three Respondents joined in a profane verbal altercation that quickly turned into physical violence and ended in gunfire, and in doing so, gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana’s judiciary.”