CROWN POINT — Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington was released from Lake County Jail Thursday after posting a $5,000 cash bond.
Washington, 44, of Merrillville, walked out of the jail's entrance door at 9:45 a.m. Deputy Police Chief Edward Jenkins said Washington then immediately walked up to Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr.'s administrative office. The sheriff wasn't there. Washington said he was only trying to find a public telephone there. He left minutes later.
Washington said later that morning he is innocent and will resume his public duties as one of seven public officials who oversee the finances of county government at the council's next meeting in January.
"To my naysayers, who say I should step down ... I'm innocent. I have witnesses, I have videotape. This is a political witch hunt to help change the direction of the upcoming election," Washington said.
He has announced he would be running for county clerk in 2018.
County jail officials said Gary City Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade posted the cash for Washington's bond. Washington, who answered Sparks-Wade's cellphone early Thursday, said he doesn't know who posted his bond.
Sparks-Wade couldn't be reached for comment. She and Washington have been political allies and jointly broadcast Facebook Live commentaries about county and Gary city politics.
Washington had been in the Lake County Jail since Merrillville police arrested him Dec. 8 and the prosecutor's office filed felony and misdemeanor charges alleging domestic violence against a female cousin.
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 against Washington 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.
Sarah Kidwell, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Supreme Court, said Thursday the state appellate clerk's office is processing a request for the appointment of a special judge in Washington's case to avoid a conflict between Washington and the local court, whose finances he oversees as one of seven members of the county council.
The state earlier appointed special prosecutors Stanley M. Levco and John H. Meyers to relieve the county prosecutor's office of a similar conflict.
The state also hired a special judge and prosecutor after Washington was charged with battering his wife and a female employee Dec. 3, 2015, at his home in Merrillville.
He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of battering his wife and was sentenced to one year on probation.
The state alleges the new allegations against Washington are a violation of the terms of his probation, and he now could face jail time in last year's case. That case is being handled in Porter County.
Meyers said Thursday there is no court order restricting Washington from contacting his cousin at this point, because a special judge has yet to be named to issue the order.