CROWN POINT — A supervisory prosecutor argued in court filings Friday that Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter's personal connection to the Hobart Walmart shooting did not represent an actual conflict of interest for his office.
Michael Toth, supervisory prosecutor for Lake County, argued in the state's memorandum opposing the appointment of a special prosecutor that the fact that Carter's brother-in-law was a potential witness to the Sept. 30 shooting at the Hobart Walmart did not divide his personal and professional loyalties.
Defense attorney Russell W. Brown requested Nov. 27 Judge Salvador Vasquez appoint a special prosecutor to represent the state in the case against his client, Alex C. Hughes.
Hughes, 26, is charged with two counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery, criminal gang activity and criminal recklessness on allegations he shot a 25-year-old father and his 9-year-old son the evening of Sept. 30 outside the Walmart off U.S. 30 in Hobart.
Both victims survived the shooting, but suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Hughes was taken into custody Oct. 9.
Brown said he was informed by Toth that Carter's sister was in the Walmart at the time of the shooting. His brother-in-law was sitting in a vehicle outside the Walmart and witnessed a black male with a gun, according to Brown.
State code provides that a special prosecutor, who is independent of the Lake County prosecutor's office, may be appointed by the court if the judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that appointment is necessary to avoid an actual conflict of interest, according to the state's memo.
“An actual conflict arises where a prosecutor places himself in a situation inherently conducive to dividing his loyalties between his duties to the state and his personal interests,” according to the memo.
Though Carter's brother-in-law is a potential witness, Toth argued Carter has “no special interest in this case.”
Toth said Carter's brother-in-law would potentially testify that he saw a black male with a gun walk by his car on the night of the shooting. The brother-in-law could not identify the person with the gun, and there was more than one individual armed at the time of the shooting, the memo states.
Furthermore, Hughes' defense attorney has indicated Hughes will assert he acted in self-defense, which makes the question of identity inessential to the case.
“Finally, the entirety of the altercation is caught on surveillance video,” Toth states. “Given this, the jury, and Mr. Carter, do not even have to rely on Mr. Carter's brother-in-law's testimony to make an informed decision on what happened that evening.”
Vasquez is scheduled to rule on the motion Tuesday.