A complaint filed last week in federal court claims the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department falsely told a man that he had a no-contact order against him and was prohibited from seeing his 12-year-old son.
Douglas Sarver filed the lawsuit July 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. He asserts the sheriff’s office violated his constitutional rights by not allowing him to make a phone call after he was arrested and by telling him he could not associate with his son.
Sarver, the custodial parent, was pulled over in October 2015 with his son in the car. He was subsequently arrested and charged with neglect of a dependent, operating while intoxicated causing the endangerment with a minor passenger, and operating with blood or breath alcohol content of at least 0.08 but less than 0.15.
He pleaded guilty in Montgomery Superior Court 1 to operating while intoxicated causing endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor.
While being held at the Montgomery County Jail, he claims he was not allowed to post bail, call his sister or talk to his attorney until he signed a paper acknowledging he was prohibited from having any contact with his son while the charges against him were pending. The acknowledgement form he was given already had Montgomery Superior Court 2 Judge Peggy Lohorn’s name filled in, and he later noticed a stack of such forms, all with the judge’s name on them.
The complaint states that Sarver does not believe Lohorn was ever contacted regarding him or the no-contact order against him.
After Sarver signed the form, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department contacted the Crawfordsville City Truant Officer about the no-contact order. The truant officer then told the school and Sarver’s son.
Believing he had been barred by a court, Sarver did not see his son for 11 days.
Sarver only learned the no-contact order had never been issued when his attorney inquired about it during the deposition for his criminal case. After chief deputy prosecutor Andrew Salter discovered the court had not prohibited Sarver from seeing his son, he gave Sarver a handwritten letter stating no court had issued a no-contact order and any questions about the status of the alleged order should be directed to the sheriff’s office.
Sarver claims his First and Fourteen Amendment rights were violated when he was not allowed to make a phone call from jail and when he was deprived of contact with his son without a hearing or court order. Also, he asserts his Sixth Amendment rights were violated when he was not permitted to call his attorney from jail.
The case is Douglas M. Sarver v. Montgomery County Sheriff Mark Casteel, in his individual and official capacities, and Officer Jennifer Haslam, in her individual capacity, 1:17-cv-2459.