VALPARAISO — Losing her job with the Porter County prosecutor's office may not be the only price Trista Hudson will pay for failing to reveal that one of two alleged victims made up at least part of the accusations in a child molestation case.
Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa said he intends to refer the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission for an ethical review, which could result in a penalty as severe as disbarment.
But don't expect a quick decision by the commission or even a confirmation that a complaint is filed, according to Kathryn Dolan, chief public information officer with the Indiana Supreme Court.
Grievances, as they are initially called, can be filed by anyone, she said, but are not made public. They are reviewed and either dismissed for lack of cause or further investigated.
If it is believed there was lawyer misconduct, the case is passed on to the full commission, which decides whether to pursue it by filing a complaint with the clerk of the Supreme Court, Dolan said. The matter is only revealed to the public if a complaint is pursued, she said.
Of the 1,422 grievances received during the 2014-15 fiscal year, 32 verified complaints were filed, Dolan said. This amounts to 2.25 percent of the total.
Complaints are either resolved with the attorney or a hearing officer is appointed to listen to the evidence, according to the Disciplinary Commission. Both types of resolutions are referred to the Supreme Court for final action.
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If the Supreme Court agrees a lawyer has engaged in misconduct, it orders a disciplinary sanction. Sanctions include a private or public reprimand, suspension from practice for a set amount of time or until the lawyer "proves fitness," or permanent disbarment, according to the commission.
Hudson, who serves on the Valparaiso City Council, has said "it was an inadvertent mistake" that she did not reveal that one of two alleged victims in a child molestation case recanted the more serious allegations against the accused, Eric Knowles, 39, of Portage.
Defense attorney Larry Rogers said he discovered the revelation when the 12-year-old boy did not describe the alleged sex act while testifying during the June trial.
Upon questioning, the boy testified his father told him to make the false accusation, Rogers said. The boy also said he shared that information with Hudson and Portage Detective Cpl. Janis Regnier at least a week earlier.
Alexa acquitted Knowles and ordered him immediately released from jail on his own recognizance while awaiting disposition of a final molestation count involving a third child.
Knowles had spent three years behind bars and was held without bond after he was accused of molesting four different children. A jury found him not guilty in one of the cases in August 2015 and Alexa scheduled a Nov. 28 trial, and Sept. 30 and Oct. 21 hearings in the final case.
Rogers said all the cases are related and are part of a coordinated effort to frame his client.