An Indiana city councilman in jail who is currently in jail suspected of murder was sworn in from inside a jail cell.
Democrat Robert “Coop” Battle of East Chicago was re-elected in November even though he’s been in jail facing drug and murder charges.
Local Democrats can’t believe Battle hasn’t resigned his position – and his $42,000 salary – and are working to force him out, WND is reporting.
“It’s wrong for the taxpayers, wrong for our party. … I can’t remember a situation like this,” Lake County Sheriff Buncich told the Chicago Tribune on Monday.
Back in September, Battle was pulled over in a traffic stop and was charged with possession of 73 pounds of marijuana. Police also found $100,000 in cash inside the vehicle.
One month later, he was charged with the shooting death of Reimundo Camarillo. His attorney claimed the shooting was self-defense, but police aren’t buying it.
“The right thing to do at this time would be to resign, step aside so the East Chicago citizens in the 3rd district can be represented properly,” Buncich said.
Battle is going to continue to receive his $42,365 salary while in the clink. He is schedule to go on trial in August.
East Chicago City Council members made more than five times the average salary of council members of 75 community governments, according to the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said Battle’s fate was in the hands of the courts and declined to comment further.
His lawyer said he will keep Battle informed about council business while he is in jail. NWTimes.com reports:
A few people have expressed interest in taking Battle’s seat, Buncich said. He is also talking to lawmakers to get state law changed to have elected officials removed from office once they are charged with a crime.
State law only requires elected officials who have been convicted of a felony to give up their office.
Voters at three polling places in East Chicago’s 3rd District did not seem convinced by the state’s case against their councilman. Many did not want to comment.
Standing outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, one woman, who did not want to identified, said she voted for Battle and thought he was being ambushed.
“I believe what he said, that the man was attacking him and he was defending himself,” she said.
The woman recalled Battle brought her food and water when her brother died.
A voter at the polling place in the 4900 block of Gladiola Avenue who also did not want to be identified described her councilman as a “good guy” who created a summer program for the children in her neighborhood.
The woman does worry about how her neighborhood will now be represented.
“How can he represent us when he’s facing his own issues,” she said.
The woman said she knows Battle’s and Camarillo’s family members.
“I sympathize with both sides,” she said. “They both lost someone.”