CROWN POINT — Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington was tantalizingly close to release from Lake County Jail on Tuesday.
Washington was within $5,000 cash of making bail and returning to public life as an elected member of the fiscal body overseeing every salary in county government, including those in Lake Criminal Court where he was brought Tuesday morning.
Judge Diane Boswell rescinded a detention order hanging over the 44-year-old Democrat's head since Merrillville police arrested him Dec. 8 on felony and misdemeanor charges of domestic violence.
However, Boswell denied a request by defense lawyers John Cantrell and Darnail Lyles to reduce Washington's bail, currently set at $5,000 cash. Washington still was in jail early Tuesday afternoon.
Boswell said it would be an "insidious" conflict for her to make a bail reduction decision in this case, because of Washington's fiscal authority over the court. The defense lawyers said they wouldn't consider her decision a conflict.
She said if she denied Washington a bail reduction and Washington were to vote against a future budget request by the court, "even for some valid reason — someone would perceive that as retaliation. I don't want to put Mr. Washington or the court in that position."
Boswell said she already has asked the state to appoint a special judge from outside Lake County to preside over the case.
The state earlier appointed special prosecutors Stanley M. Levco and John H. Meyers to relieve the county prosecutor's office of a similar conflict. Meyers appeared in court Tuesday.
Washington appeared before the judge Tuesday wearing a gray, striped jail uniform and handcuffs chained to his waist for a pre-trial hearing.
He is charged with criminal confinement, intimidation, misdemeanor battery and interference with reporting a crime over a Dec. 5 dispute with his 23-year-old cousin, Kamaria Buckley, in the councilman's home, where she also was living.
Buckley recanted her claims in an interview with The Times, but the state is proceeding with charges based on her original statement and a search of the councilman's home. Washington has told The Times he is innocent and won't resign his office.
The state also hired a special judge and prosecutor after Washington was charged with attacking his wife and a female employee Dec. 3, 2015, at his home in Merrillville.
He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to one year in jail, which was suspended for probation.
The state alleges the new allegations against Washington is a violation of the terms of his probation. That case is being handled in Porter County. A judge in Porter County on Monday revoked his detention on the probation violation.