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Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington

Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington leaving the Lake County Jail in December after bonding out on pending domestic violence charges.

#Thuggery

It's the social media hashtag threatening to define Lake County government as long as Jamal Washington lingers on our Region's already tarnished political scene.

#Disgrace

It's the secondary hashtag of this #MeToo era if every decent, thinking citizen doesn't publicly decry the behavior and demand the resignation of Washington, who is an affront to women.

By now, most Times readers are more than familiar with the embarrassment and public disgust defining the political tenure of Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington.

Sadly, Washington's shame goes beyond his December 2016 guilty plea to battering his wife and his December 2017 charges of domestic violence against a female cousin.

A disturbing pattern of alleged violence against women is chronicled in orders of protection issued between March 2009 and present — but not obtained by The Times until last week.

Adding insult to injury, Washington apparently lied to The Times about the existence of the newly revealed orders of protection — at least one of which shows he was in the courtroom when the order was issued.

The live-in employee

The Times county government reporter Bill Dolan obtained court documents for one of the protective orders Wednesday.

That order was issued by a Lake County judge in 2015 to protect a 24-year-old woman — not Washington's wife — who shared a child with Washington, 44, and also resided with Washington and his wife.

The woman, also a subordinate employee of Washington, noted in her application for the protective order that Washington assaulted her on four separate occasions, including giving her a black eye on June 1, 2011, when she accidentally broke a power window control in a car in which they were traveling.

On Oct. 1, 2014, Washington repeatedly punched her in the face, stomach and arms and choked her unconscious, the order application alleges. A blow to the face in May 2015 left the woman's nose bleeding, she claimed.

Another incident on Dec. 3, 2015, which prompted the protective order, also would lead to criminal charges.

At their Merrillville home, the woman was "being reproached about work" by Washington.

He hit her with a wooden stick, punched her in the face and choked her, the victim alleged, among other acts.

Accounts in related Merrillville police reports mirror those claims.

The wife

Washington's wife also obtained a protective order against him, stemming from the same domestic violence incident involving the live-in employee. That order was obtained by The Times Thursday.

On Dec. 3, 2015, Washington's wife alleged she was threatened, choked, pinned down and bitten on the hand by her husband — all while children were in the Merrillville residence.

Ultimately, Washington would be charged with domestic violence against both his wife and the live-in employee.

In a deal with prosecutors in December 2016, Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery against his wife, and other felony charges were dropped.

But court documents newly obtained by The Times late last week allege a pattern of violence by Washington against his wife.

In August 2014, Washington kicked, punched, slapped, pushed, choked and threatened his wife with further violence "if I tried to block the assault," the woman stated in her protective order petition.

That alleged assault was precipitated by an argument over the woman allowing her children to watch a drive-in movie in a friend's van "instead of keeping them in the car with me."

And in fall of 2012, Washington slapped, choked and shoved his wife down three steps, the woman alleged.

That domestic incident reportedly occurred when his wife told her daughter to report another alleged violence incident involving Washington.

'Credible threat' in 2010

Court documents confirming another order of protection issued against Washington were provided to The Times by the Lake County clerk's office Thursday.

Though court personnel initially told The Times Wednesday some requested documents had been shredded, clerk personnel found and provided a portion of those materials Thursday.

On Jan. 4, 2010, a Lake County court magistrate issued an order of protection against Washington because "a preponderance of the evidence" showed he posed a "credible threat" to the safety of a woman by way of domestic violence.

Few details about the allegation were listed in whatever documents survived the shredder. But the 2010 protective order, signed by the judge, noted Washington was present in the courtroom on Jan. 4, 2010, when the judge signed the order barring him from harming or contacting the woman and two children living in the household.

When asked about this order and another from 2009 that is noted on a state protective orders registry, Washington denied any orders existed other than the 2015 documents involving his wife and then-live-in employee.

So it appears he was lying.

The 2010 court document ordered Washington to stay away from that woman's place of employment, then listed as the Gary airport.

Coming full circle

All of these previous orders of protection and Washington's 2016 guilty plea to battering his wife precipitated his arrest in December on new charges of domestic violence against a female cousin. The new charges, and a case for alleged violation of his probation, are pending.

A month later, Washington would file to run for the Lake County Board of Commissioners — a three-person panel of the county's highest executive leaders.

It's bad enough we must endure Washington and his legacy of shame on the Lake County Council, the county's fiscal body to which he was elected in 2014.

Now he's announced a run for a position that amounts to the mayor of the unincorporated areas surrounding Gary.

If Washington isn't behind bars by the 2018 May primary, voters must do all they can to bar him from winning the commissioner's race — or any other elected office ever again.

Abusers forcibly invoke their power over their victims. Voters should be stripping — not granting — power to such people who seek elected office.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.