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In re Hudson

Supreme Court of Indiana

August 29, 2018

In the Matter of Trista A. Hudson Respondent.

         Attorney Discipline Action Hearing Officer William N. Riley

          ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT Donald R. Lundberg Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION G. Michael Witte, Executive Director Seth Pruden, Staff Attorney Larry Newman, Staff Attorney Indianapolis, Indiana

          PER CURIAM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         We find that Respondent, Trista Hudson, committed attorney misconduct by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence and by prosecuting a charge she knew was not supported by probable cause. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be suspended for at least eighteen months without automatic reinstatement.

         This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's verified disciplinary complaint. Respondent's 1998 admission to this state's bar subjects her to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See IND. CONST. art. 7, § 4.

         Procedural Background and Facts

         At relevant times, Respondent served as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Porter County. In 2013, "Defendant" was charged with five counts of child molesting, the first four of which were tried together and are at issue here. Counts I and II alleged criminal deviate conduct involving Defendant's stepchildren K.C. and E.C., respectively. Counts III and IV alleged fondling with respect to K.C. and E.C. The four counts were based upon statements made by the children to various police officials, and there was no physical or medical evidence of child molesting.

         Five days before trial, Respondent interviewed E.C. in preparation for trial with a detective present. During this interview E.C. recanted the facts underlying Count II, stating he had lied at the request of his and K.C.'s biological father. Respondent believed E.C.'s recantation was truthful.

         However, Respondent did not disclose E.C.'s recantation to defense counsel, nor did she withdraw Count II at any point prior to or during trial. During her direct examination of E.C. at trial, Respondent avoided asking any questions about the allegations underlying Count II. E.C.'s recantation, and the fact his father had coached him to lie, was revealed at trial during defense counsel's questioning of E.C. and other witnesses. Respondent did not immediately disclose to the court that she had known about E.C.'s recantation for nearly one week. After the prosecution concluded its case-in-chief, the trial court addressed Respondent's failure to disclose the recantation and determined that the appropriate remedy was to enter judgment of acquittal for Defendant as to all four counts.[1]

         The Commission charged Respondent with violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.8(a), 3.8(d), and 8.4(d) in connection with the conduct described above. Following a hearing, the hearing officer filed his report to this Court concluding that Respondent violated each of those three rules as charged.

         The Commission also charged Respondent with violating Rules 8.1(a) and 8.4(c), based on the Commission's allegation that Respondent's response to the Commission's request for investigation was knowingly false. The hearing officer concluded that the Commission had not met its burden of proving these charges by clear and convincing evidence.

         Discussion and Discipline

         Respondent concedes a violation of Rule 3.8(a) but seeks our review of the hearing officer's conclusions that she violated Rules 3.8(d) and 8.4(d) as well as certain underlying findings made by the hearing officer. The Commission does not seek our review of the hearing officer's conclusions that the Commission failed to prove the Rule 8.1(a) and Rule ...


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