VALPARAISO — Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Trista Hudson said she did not intend any wrongdoing last month when she failed to reveal that one of two alleged victims made up at least part of the accusations in a child molestation case.
The failure, however, resulted in the accused being acquitted on all charges and it has now cost Hudson her job with the prosecutor's office.
"Prosecutors are held to a higher standard than other attorneys," Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said Tuesday in a prepared statement requested by The Times.
"The decision not to disclose exculpatory information to defense counsel in a recent case fell below the standard I expect my deputy prosecutors to maintain," he said.
Hudson said, "it was an inadvertent mistake not intended, nor meant to be malicious."
She acknowledged the unfortunate impact the outcome has had on the alleged victims in the case.
Hudson said she has a strong ethical track record during her nearly 14 years with the prosecutor's office in Porter County and four years in Lake County.
Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa said last month he intended to refer the matter involving Hudson to the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission for an ethical review. Hudson also serves on the Valparaiso City Council.
The withheld evidence came to light during the last week of June as Eric Knowles, 39, of Portage, was on trial for four counts of child molesting involving two children.
Defense attorney Larry Rogers said Tuesday he noticed when one of the alleged victims was being questioned by Hudson during the trial, the 12-year-old boy did not describe the sex act that was at the center of the case and that led to the most severe charge.
"I had a feeling that the young man was lying," Rogers said. "I thought if I probed around I could get him to admit to it and he did."
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The boy testified his father told him to make the false accusation, Rogers said. He also said he shared that with Hudson and Portage Detective Cpl. Janis Regnier at least a week earlier.
"The decision not to disclose was ultimately decided by the prosecutor," Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said Tuesday. "It was not our detective's call to make."
Rogers said he responded to the discovery of evidence by referring to a law requiring prosecutors to present the defense with any evidence that may indicate the accused is not guilty. That resulted in Alexa acquitting Knowles and ordering him immediately released from jail on his own recognizance while awaiting disposition of a final molestation count involving a third child.
"I was just doing my job," Rogers said, pointing out his client was facing 20 to 50 years.
"I'm sad that she got fired," he said of Hudson. "I certainly don't have any ill will toward her."
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 and Alexa scheduled a Nov. 28 trial, and Sept. 30 and Oct. 21 hearings in the final case.
Alexa explained as he dismissed the jury in last month's trial that the acquittal makes no determination of Knowles' guilt, but he cannot be retried on the charges.
When Knowles thanked the judge last month for the acquittal, Alexa chastised him and said it was not being done for him.
"It's for our system," he said.
Rogers said all the cases are related and are part of a coordinated effort to frame his client.