PORTAGE — Following what amounted to a mini version of the criminal trial that awaits him, Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington was found by a judge Wednesday to have violated his probation from an earlier domestic criminal case.
Porter County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Thode found that Washington violated his probation by engaging in further criminal activity as indicated by his arrest on allegations of battering his 23-year-old cousin Dec. 5, 2017, at his Merrillville home.
Thode sentenced Washington, 44, to no further jail time, pointing out that he was just a day away from successfully completing his year-long probation when the most recent incident allegedly occurred.
The judge also released Washington from probation.
He was on probation after pleading guilty in December 2016 to misdemeanor battery and invasion of privacy on allegations of attacking his wife and a female employee Dec. 3, 2015, at his home.
Standing outside the North County Complex in Portage with his attorney Darnail Lyles after Wednesday's hearing, Washington said he was pleased with the judge's decision and felt good about his chances of continued success in the case.
"I'm feeling 100 percent confident," he said.
Hearsay evidence that was allowed in during the probation hearing is prohibited during a criminal trial, which also has a much tougher burden of proof for prosecutors, he said.
"I believe this is politically motivated," Washington said.
Washington said he was targeted, in part, because of his run for county commissioner and because of the local corruption he targets with his Facebook and radio shows.
"They're trying to silence me at the end of the day," he said.
Washington failed earlier this month in his primary election bid to unseat Lake Commissioner Kyle Allen, D-Gary.
Attorneys said the probation violation could yet be used against Washington as an aggravator at sentencing if he is found guilty in the pending criminal case.
Witnesses give hint at what's to come at trial
Kamaria Buckley, 23, who is Washington's cousin, took the witness stand Wednesday and reiterated the claims that led to the most recent criminal charges facing him.
She said while working a Lake County 911 dispatching job that Washington helped her obtain, he became upset with her on the telephone Dec. 5 when she said hello to someone else during their conversation.
"He said I was being disrespectful to him for interrupting our conversation," Buckley said.
When she arrived at his house, where she was staying after he helped her relocate following family problems in California, Buckley said Washington grabbed her cellphone from her hands and the abuse escalated when she attempted to retrieve it.
"He picked me up and slammed me on the ground," she said.
When she voiced surprise he was hurting her in front of his son, Washington choked her momentarily and returned to her bedroom threatening to hit her with a large mallet.
"I just sat down on the bed and said, 'You're crazy,' " Buckley said.
Washington apologized for his actions after which time Buckley fled to a neighbor's home, who testified that Buckley was scared, trembling and crying.
When asked why she later attempted to recant her allegations, Buckley said she felt the legal impact on Washington was excessive.
"I was more concerned about his reputation and his job," she said.
Geneva Wesley, who is a cousin to both Washington and Buckley, testified that when she picked up Buckley following the alleged incident she said nothing about Washington placing hands on her.
Buckley also had no bruises on her body, she said.
"There was absolutely nothing wrong," Wesley said. "I just think this whole thing has been turned into something it is not."
Washington faces three felony counts of criminal confinement and two counts of intimidation, in addition to misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury, battery and interference with the reporting of a crime, according to court files.
His trial is set for Nov. 13-16 in Lake County, with a pre-trial hearing Oct. 5 in Portage. Thode is serving as a special judge in the case.