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James Raymond Simmons

James Simmons

CROWN POINT — A Gary landscaper is now suing the town of Winfield and a Crown Point business in addition to a Winfield Town Councilman over a 2-year-old hit-and-run accident.

Attorneys for James Ballard filed an amended civil complaint this week in Lake Superior Court seeking damages against James R. Simmons, a member of Winfield’s five-member Town Council, the other council members, the Winfield Police Department and M.J. Electric of Crown Point.

Ballard first sued last year, claiming Simmons caused him permanent injuries and emotional anguish Sept. 23, 2017 during a confrontation in the suburban south county community of Winfield.

Ballard’s landscaping business was working in the 5200 block of 105th Lane in Winfield that day when Simmons drove up in a pick-up truck and accused Ballard of leaving wood chips in the street in violation of town regulations.

Roy Dominguez, who represents Ballard, said Wednesday that Simmons identified himself during the squabble as the Town Council vice president and demanded the chips be cleaned up.

Dominguez said that although Ballard promised to clean up the chips at the end of the job, Simmons struck Ballard with the truck. Ballard told employees to call 911, and Simmons said, “I pay the police.”

Dominguez said Ballard suffered a fractured left foot and injuries that required a total knee replacement, leaving Ballard unable to climb trees, which limits his future employment.

Dominguez said Winfield police were called to the scene, but when Ballard asked them to arrest Simmons, town police officers took no statements from the witnesses at the scene, didn’t investigate the cause of the accident and made no arrests.

Dominguez said Wednesday he filed new allegations in the amended complaint that M.J. Electric should also be held responsible for employing and training Simmons and entrusting him with a company truck Simmons was driving.

A representative of M.J. Electric couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Dominguez said Ballard is now suing the town of Winfield, its police department and town council because Simmons was a town official and claiming to be acting on town business at the time of the accident.

Simmons remains on the council but isn’t running for re-election this fall.

Dominguez said the police department is negligent for failing in its duty to investigate the incident or locate Simmons after he left the accident scene.

Crown Point attorney David M. Austgen, representing the town of Winfield, declined comment on the new allegation.

No trial date has been set in the civil suit.

Simmons also is facing criminal charges.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter called for an independent investigation by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department after the incident.

His office conducted a grand jury investigation that led in June 2018 to an indictment of Simmons on felony charges of battery and leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injuries.

Simmons is currently pleading not guilty, but court records indicate Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell has scheduled a hearing Oct. 18 for the possibility he might change his plea.

Defense attorney Paul Stracci, who represents Simmons on the criminal matters, said earlier this summer he and the prosecutor’s office were close to an agreement to resolve the criminal case.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.