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Allen County judge arrested on alcohol counts

Felts

Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts, who handles the lion’s share of Allen County’s alcohol-related criminal cases, was arrested in Indianapolis early Friday on drunken driving and public intoxication charges.

When an Indiana Capitol Police officer pulled Felts’ black Lincoln over for failing to use a turn signal on West Market Street, the 53-year-old judge backed into the police car, according to a report from the Indiana State Police.

After Felts failed a field sobriety test, he provided two invalid breath tests and was charged with refusal, according to the report.

Police obtained a search warrant from a Marion County Superior Court judge and took a sample of Felts’ blood at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis. The blood sample will be turned over the Indiana University Department of Toxicology for analysis, according to the report.

No information about his blood-alcohol content was available Saturday.

Felts was booked into the Marion County Jail’s Arrestee Processing Center about 4:40a.m. Friday on misdemeanor charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and public intoxication. He was then released 11 hours later on his own recognizance.

When reached at his Fort Wayne home Saturday, Felts said he regretted the situation.

“I defer to and respect the system that has been set up to resolve these matters,” he said.

Elected to the bench in 2002 after serving as the Circuit Court magistrate since 1989, Felts is again running for the Circuit Court seat. As the county’s sole Circuit Court judge, Felts handles both civil and criminal cases. In Allen County, most of the drunken driving cases and other alcohol-related offenses are handled through Felts’ court.

His legal trouble comes just days after Allen Superior Judge Kenneth R. Scheibenberger was formally charged with official misconduct by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications for allegedly cursing at the family of a defendant in another courtroom. Scheibenberger believed the defendant sold his late son drugs.

The Indiana Judicial Canons require judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their actions, which includes violations of the law, court rules or other specific rules of the judicial canons, according to the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

The judicial nominating commission cannot act on its own, rather needing a formal notification to begin the disciplinary process. But judges in each county are obligated to report attorneys who violate the law, Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull said.

“I would assume the folks in Indianapolis have the same obligation,” she said Saturday.

rgreen@jg.net

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