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Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington

Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington departs the Lake County Jail in December after posting bond in a domestic violence case.

A Region court hearing this week is an affront to any victim of domestic violence — and any member of society fed up with the marginalizing of such cases.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Thode ruled Wednesday that Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, a convicted wife batterer, violated his probation in that case.

Thode ruled that Washington did so by engaging in further criminal activity as indicated by Washington's December arrest on new domestic violence charges — this time for alleged violence against his 23-year-old female cousin in Washington's Merrillville home.

Washington's domestic transgressions have been assigned to Porter County Court on a change of venue because, as a sitting county councilman, he overseas budgets for the Lake County courts and prosecutor.

Washington remained on probation in the 2015 battery case of his wife, so the new criminal charges from December prompted what the judge deemed to be a violation of that probation. That violation could have meant a jail sentence of up to a year for Washington.

Instead, even though the judge found evidence to compel a ruling that Washington violated his probation, Washington will see no additional jail time.

The judge's apparent logic behind that ruling is lacking.

During the Wednesday hearing, Thode pointed out that Washington had been one day away from successfully completing his probation when the more recent arrest, involving the battery against Washington's cousin, occurred.

Therefore, no jail time was prescribed.

The ruling sends a message that flies in the face of justice.

Rightly in the minds of many, Washington already had caught a break in the 2015 battery case against his wife.

Though the initial charges were felonies, a special prosecutor in the case and the Porter County court allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor battery charge.

In a repugnant twist, the plea allowed Washington to continue serving in his elected public position. A felony conviction would have immediately negated his remaining in the public office under Indiana law.

On Wednesday, the convicted wife batterer caught his second break.

A judge told him that even though his probation hadn't yet expired, and even though he violated that probation, Washington was free to go with no immediate penalty.

The only solace in this ruling is that the probation violation can be used against Washington during sentencing if he is convicted of the new battery charges against his cousin.

Beyond that, it carries no teeth or deterrence for such future behavior by Washington or any other would-be abuser.

An admitted batterer should not be able to declare victory after a judge has just ruled that a probation violation occurred.

But that is what Washington was able to do upon the conclusion of Wednesday's hearing.

It's a shameful result.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.