INDIANAPOLIS — A top official in the LaPorte County prosecutor's office, who eavesdropped on private conversations between accused criminals and their attorneys on at least two occasions, has been suspended from practicing law.
The Indiana Supreme Court, which oversees attorney discipline in the state, on Monday voted 5-0 to prohibit Robert Neary from working as a lawyer for a four-year period, without automatic reinstatement, beginning Dec. 18.
The state's high court concluded that Neary, while LaPorte County's chief deputy prosecutor, used methods of obtaining evidence that violated the legal rights of a third person and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
According to the ruling, Neary and several detectives used remote audio and video feeds to listen in on a confidential conversation between a homicide suspect and his attorney in an interview room at the Michigan City police department on March 14, 2014.
Neary also separately viewed a video recording of a 2012 "defense strategy" conversation between an attorney and a suspect in a Long Beach homicide that inadvertently was taped in a police interview room during an interrogation break, court records show.
"Respondent's conduct in both cases fundamentally infringed on privileged attorney-client communications and, at an absolute minimum, has caused significant delays and evidentiary hurdles in the prosecutions of (the suspects), even assuming they still can be prosecuted at all," the court said.
While the high court's disciplinary commission recommended Neary be disbarred, the Supreme Court justices said Neary's lack of prior discipline and standing within the community, among other reasons, persuaded them "that the door should not permanently be closed on (Neary's) legal career."
Neary did not respond to a telephone message left at the LaPorte County prosecutor's office seeking comment on the disciplinary ruling.