Indianapolis Star

Fishers Man Escapes On Way to Jail

January 23, 2004
By Terry Horne

A 42-year-old Fishers man, appearing in court today on a minor probation violation, bolted from a courtroom officer's custody after the judge ordered him held in jail.

Marion Superior Court Judge Reuben E. Hill said he was trying to get James Witherspoon's attention when he ordered him held in the Marion County Jail until Feb. 20, when his probation hearing would resume.

On Aug. 15, 2002, Witherspoon, 9700 block of Roxbury Drive, was sentenced to 180 days of home detention and 270 days probation after he pleaded guilty to drunk driving. However, last fall, probation officers ordered back in court to explain his failure to pay about $500 in fines and to complete an alcoholic treatment program in Noblesville.

"Get your head clear and come back to tell me how you're going to fix this," the judge recalled telling Witherspoon.

A courtroom deputy then took Witherspoon into the hallway behind the courtroom. The officer's attention was apparently diverted for a few minutes while the officer dealt with defendants already in custody, the judge said.

In that short moment, Witherspoon bolted out of the judge's offices and was last seen running north on Alabama Street aroound noon.

Attempts to catch him were complicated by confusion over who had escaped. Hill said two probation violators had appeared before him during the morning session, and he had ordered both held in jail temporarily. Court officers and police initially thought the other man had bolted.

Hill may not have gotten Witherspoon's attention, but the Fishers man now has the judge's.

Hill said he likely would have freed Witherspoon had he stayed in jail until Feb. 20. Now he may have to serve the 1-year suspended portion of his sentence and perhaps additional time for contempt of court, Hill said.

And that's if Marion County prosecutors don't file an escape charge.