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Marion's Timbs to have vehicle returned after eight-year legal battle

After an eight-year court battle that began in Grant County and went all the way from the Indiana Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court and back, a Marion man will soon have his vehicle returned to him.

On Thursday, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the decision made by Grant County Superior Court 1 Judge Jeffrey Todd that Timbs’ 2013 Land Rover LR2 should be returned to him immediately.

“Today’s ruling is an important victory for property rights across Indiana,” Sam Gedge, an Institute for Justice (IJ) attorney who represents Timbs, said in a press release. “As the Indiana Supreme Court correctly recognized, Indiana’s campaign to take Tyson’s car is just the sort of abusive forfeiture that the Excessive Fines Clause is designed to curtail. The State of Indiana has spent nearly a decade trying to confiscate a vehicle from a low-income recovering addict. No one should have to spend eight years fighting the government just to get back their car.”

Timbs, of Marion, purchased the vehicle in 2013 after receiving money from a life insurance policy following his father’s death, court documents state.

Police seized the Land Rover when Timbs was arrested in 2013, claiming the vehicle was used to engage in “illegal drug trafficking” and noting Timbs drove the vehicle to sell drugs to an undercover officer on one occasion. Timbs later pleaded guilty to one B-felony count of dealing in a controlled substance and a D-felony count of conspiracy to commit theft, according to court documents.

The Supreme Court majority opinion notes he served a sentence of one year of house arrest and five years of probation and since then “avoided any probation violations, committed no crimes, participated in treatment programs...assisted with drug task forces…[and] also held down several jobs.”

Since the initial arrest, Timbs and his legal counsel have argued the seizure of the vehicle, assessed at approximately $42,000 at the time, was excessive compared to the maximum $10,000 fine associated with his convictions, according to previous Chronicle-Tribune reports. Lawyers representing Timbs have cited the Excessive Fines Clause in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the clause of the Eighth Amendment could be applied to the states, not just the federal government, but left the determination whether the seizure of the Land Rover was a “grossly excessive fine” to the local trial court, Superior Court 1.

Last April, Todd ruled the seizure of the vehicle was disproportionate to Timbs’ offense “by a significant margin,” noting his clean record since the arrest, the fact that the Land Rover was Timbs’ “only asset,” and a determination that Timbs’ crimes were victimless since he made sales of drugs to undercover police officers.

After the state appealed the Superior Court 1 decision, the Indiana Supreme Court independently reviewed the facts of the case and a majority opinion came to the same conclusion as Todd, that Timbs had proved the seizure was grossly disproportionate compared to his crimes.

“For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits,” Timbs said in the IJ press release. “The State’s refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they’re trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my probation officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? I hope that, finally, the government will move on and let me move on too.”

Timbs previously told the Chronicle-Tribune he does not hold any animosity toward the officers who arrested him and he hopes to continue to use his experiences to help others through sharing his stories with state and local substance abuse task forces and the recovery community. He also said he would like to see civil asset forfeiture no longer be a part of the legal system.

CSA students Rise Up to the challenge for end of year showcases

The Marion Community School of the Arts (CSA) will be showcasing a year’s worth of work and preparation for its end of the year showcases.

This year, the students ages 3-18 have been working on honing their craft, whether that may be singing, dancing, performing or creating art with one’s hands.

The theme for this year’s shows is Rise Up. Many things have been different this year at CSA, and in the community. CSA Executive Director Katie Morgan-Perez said that because of all of those differences and challenges, this seemed like the best theme for the showcases.

“Everything that’s happening in our county, everything that’s happening in our community and everything that’s happening in our own lives as a result of the pandemic,” said Morgan-Perez. “Rise Up just felt like what we’re all trying to do this year.”

The showcases will encompass everything that CSA does and offers for students. On the weekend of June 11-13, people who purchase a ticket will help support CSA and also be treated to many different genres of performing art.

It all opens on Friday, June 11 at 7 p.m. with the CSA iDance performance, then the following day from 2-4 p.m. people can stop back into the F. Ritchie Walton Performing Arts Center at Marion High School to see the art created by students in the iCreate visual arts program.

Later that night at 7 p.m., visitors can see a stage performance by the iPerform students.

To wrap up the weekend, on Sunday at 2 p.m. students will give their iSing performance to send the weekend’s showcases off on a high note.

“It’s an important chance for us to show what the kids have been able to pull off,” said Morgan-Perez.

Morgan-Perez fought back emotion when speaking about the work the kids put in and how they adjusted to the twists and turns that came alongside the pandemic.

“They were so flexible and adaptable last year when everything was kind of pulled out from underneath them,” she said. “So to be able to get to honor that is cool.”

Through changed schedules, canceled performances and COVID-19 protocols, Morgan-Perez said that the students took it in stride.

“They are probably more adaptable than adults,” she said. “I think that that’s a beautiful testament to what this means to all of them.”

The students themselves said the chance to be a part of these showcases is special, especially after thinking just a few months ago that it may not have been possible.

“It definitely opened our eyes a little bit,” said senior, and nine-year CSA member, Emma Reel. “We’ve been doing this for so long that sometimes you’re like ‘Oh, it’s just another CSA rehearsal.’ We really do love doing this and we are lucky enough that our senior year wasn’t last year when everything was shut down and we didn’t get anything at all.”

The students were grateful that they have had the chance to learn and develop life skills in CSA, but the connections and friendships they have made might mean even more.

“I made so many friends,” said senior and 11-year CSA member Hunter Luzadder. “Like I still stay connected with people who graduated four or five years ago and it’s just a really great place to make friends, and you can just bond over so many things.”

For some of the students, CSA gave them a chance to come out of their shell.

Jalaia Tebbe-Harper will be playing the snow queen in a modified version of The Nutcracker that will be performed this weekend. Originally scheduled as its own performance, it was canceled because of the pandemic. So for iDance this year, some elements of the show will be performed.

Tebbe-Harper said that she was shy before joining the CSA and that being able to meet friends and perform helped her over come that bashfulness.

“I’ve been able to come out of my shell and talk to people,” said Tebbe-Harper. “I’ve made some really good friends, that’s nice. I was so shy. I didn’t really talk to anyone for like the first two years. This year I started talking to people; it’s been fun.”

Tickets for iDance are sold out, but tickets can still be purchased for other shows by going to csa-marion.com. Tickets are $12 each.

County jail to receive new paint job

The Grant County Jail will soon be getting a facelift that officials say is much needed.

At Monday’s commissioners’ meeting, Sheriff Reggie Nevels briefed the board on plans to repaint the entire inside of the jail facility. Nevels said the jail has only been fully repainted once – using inmate labor, not a professional company – since its 1990 addition, with small cosmetic touch ups and projects since then using the inmate work crew.

“This is the time where we need to paint the jail entirely, bring it up to speed, so that the jail can at least last another 10-15 years,” Nevels said.

Maintenance Director Vince Beneke agreed with Nevels that the jail was “pretty bad” and in need of a new paint job. Commissioner Mark Bardsley said, through his work as a Marion Police Department chaplain, he is at the jail routinely and also attested to the need for the upgrades.

Nevels said Misener Industrial Painting & Restoration (MIP&R) of Fort Wayne has been selected to complete the painting job. MIP&R Marketing Director Paul Ducharme told commissioners his company specializes in industrial painting jobs and has completed projects at county, state and federal jails and prisons as well as factories for GM, Ford and Chrysler.

Ducharme said his company would first review all areas of the facility, complete some tests and ensure the best products that adhere to the walls, cells and bars with the best longevity will be used. He estimated the total job would take four to six months, noting there will be a flexible schedule to interfere as little with the jail’s day to day operations as possible.

“That’s kind of that living schedule, so whatever works best for the sheriff’s department,” Ducharme said. “We will adhere to that to make sure it’s best and does not affect the operations much on a day to day basis.”

Bardsley questioned how MIP&R would handle painting the intake area that is used nearly 24/7.

Ducharme said the company has dealt with similar high-use areas in the past and will work second shift or weekends – or even potentially work in spurts while the intake area is being utilized by jail staff – to complete the job.

Nevels said the project is estimated to cost approximately $479,000 but will be paid for out of the jail’s commissary fund, which means the project will be funded without taxpayer dollars from the county’s general fund.

“We think this will be a win-win for the entire county and also the inmates,” Nevels said.

Commissioner Ron Mowery said the sheriff’s recent renovations to the administrative offices have helped change the image of that area, and he is looking forward to the same happening with the jail repainting.

“There’s no question that those cell blocks have to be a detriment to you,” Mowery said, “and personally, other than the price, I think it’s going to be good.”

While the project is not using general fund dollars, commissioners unanimously approved the project to go forward since they serve as trustees of all county buildings.

Mowery suggested that once the renovations are complete the sheriff’s department could hold a public open house to show the results of the work as well as the recent other renovations to the department and jail facilities.

COVID-19 vaccine information

IDOH updates COVID-19 count

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) Thursday reported 374 new COVID-19 cases statewide. That brings to 748,259 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 13,291 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of two from the previous day. Another 419 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days.

To date, a total of 10,606,636 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to IDOH since Feb. 26, 2020.

COVID-19 vaccine information

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to Hoosiers 12 and older. To schedule at a facility within the state system, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 211. Vaccines are free, but insurance may be charged an administrative fee. Appointments for the second dose will be made when the first dose is administered if receiving a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine that requires two doses.

The Grant County Health Department and Marion General Hospital (MGH) are operating vaccine clinics locally within the state system. Appointments can still be scheduled, but walk-ins are also now accepted at this time within the state system clinics.

Children ages 12-17 are only permitted to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is offered locally at MGH.

The Marion Walmart and Meijer locations, Walgreens locations at 1323 N Baldwin Ave. and 2620 S. Western Ave. in Marion and CVS at 4630 S. Washington St. in Marion are also offering COVID-19 vaccinations at their in-store pharmacies as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP). Eligible customers can schedule a vaccine appointment via the stores’ respective websites.

Visit uplandfamily pharmacy.com or call 765-998-8072 for information on Upland Family Pharmacy’s vaccine clinic that offers the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

All veterans can now receive a COVID-19 vaccine from VA Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANIHCS) regardless of their enrollment status or character of discharge. Caregivers, Spouses, CHAMPVA Recipients and Veterans who are not enrolled in VANIHCS, please call (800) 360-8387 ext. 71101 to preregister. Phone lines are open 8 a.m. 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.

If you have recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, flu-like systems within the first few days of vaccination are part of the body’s normal immune response to the vaccine. Those symptoms include pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the vaccine, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.

Anyone who develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, shortness of breath or leg swelling within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact a health care provider and inform the provider of the symptoms and recent COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the IDOH COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 20,375 Grant County residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 19,623 are fully vaccinated through receiving both doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose required for the J&J vaccine. Statewide, IDOH reports 2,712,851 Hoosiers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine requiring two doses, and 2,638,326 Indiana residents are fully vaccinated by receiving two doses or the one-dose J&J vaccine.

Organizers plan Grant County's first-ever community Pride events

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Originally created to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred in 1969, the event grew from a march in New York City to a month-long celebration across the world.

There have been people within Grant County that have celebrated Pride Month before within their own groups, but this year the first public, community-wide celebration of the LGBTQ community will be held at Matter Park in Marion.

The event, called “Pride At the Park,” will be held June 25 starting at 4 p.m. at the Matter Park Bandshell.

There will be live music, entertainment, food, yoga and more at the event. Following the gathering in the park, Grant County Pride will host the Pride After Dark Drag Show at 9 p.m. at the Sender Building, 100 S. Washington St. in Marion.

This event is meant to celebrate the heritage and culture of the LGBTQ community, and event organizers say a celebration of this kind was long overdue in the county.

“It feels like in the areas of equity and inclusion and real true communing, we’re light years behind so many places sometimes,” said organizer Torri Williams. “I can’t even quantify how overdue it feels to have this here.”

Williams said in a way this can lead to some mixed emotions.

“In 2021, it’s amazing we’re doing our first Pride, but it’s also like really?” said Williams. “We’re just now publicly celebrating Pride?”

Fellow organizer Brittany Brinkley said she and the other organizers are very passionate about being able to host the event, stating it can feel overwhelming emotionally that it is finally happening.

Brinkley said the public has been very supportive of the event.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” said Brinkley. “Just a lot of positive reactions. Lots of people wanting to know how they can help, how they can participate, what it’s going to be like. I think the general reaction has been like a, ‘Wow, finally.’ Lot’s of excitement, lots of surprise, which has been kind of fun.”

Brinkley said that donations are being accepted to help fund the event, and people can reach out to Grant County Pride on Facebook to donate or volunteer.

According to Brinkley, the event is meant to have a “chill” atmosphere, but the hope is for the event to still present the opportunity to address misconceptions about the LGBTQ community and help build community acceptance.

“I think just seeing this community come together and seeing pictures, hearing stories will help people who maybe have a bias or a misunderstanding to kind of see the LGBTQ+ community in a new light here in our own community,” said Brinkley, “and be able to see what Pride looks like when they may have just a total misunderstanding of what that is.”

Williams said that it is important to remember that the people coming out to the celebration are from within the community.

“I think it’s important for people to understand this gathering is of people who live and work and love with us every day,” said Williams. “So if education comes from Pride, that’s great, but also there’s opportunities to educate and combat some of that bias around all the time.

“I think the event is important for Grant County, just to create space for people to be visible,” Williams continued. “And we hope that everyone will come out in the spirit of love and also honoring the tradition and history of what Pride actually is.”