Normally, when someone is sworn in as a city councilman, he takes the oath of office in city hall.
Re-elected East Chicago, Ind., Councilman Robert Battle, however, was sworn in for a second term from inside a county jail.
The Washington Post reports that Battle is facing multiple felony charges, including murder, in the killing of a man during a drug deal. Battle has insisted (and pleaded) that he is not guilty. Still, the situation puts his party, the Democratic Party, in a rather tight spot.
There is nothing that can be done under Indiana law unless Battle himself resigns, admits to the charges or is found guilty in court. His trial is expected to start in August.
As it stands, Battle has the right to keep his seat and his $42,365 salary, the Post notes.
The unusual situation, the Post notes, could be attributed to party dominance and indifference on the part of voters. Battle was actually unopposed in his bid for his council seat, winning with a mere 308 votes in a city of approximately 30,000 people, according to the report.
The politician didn’t even vote for himself because he didn’t request his absentee ballot and he was in jail at the time.
Battle is accused of killing 31-year-old Reimundo “Rey” Caramillo Jr. on Oct. 12, allegedly shooting the man in an alley behind his apartment. Battle has contested the charge, saying that he killed Camarillo in self-defense after Camarillo pulled a knife on him.
However, the Lake County, Ind., Coroner’s Office has ruled that Caramillo was shot once in the back, and authorities did not uncover a knife at the scene, according to the Chicago Tribune. Indictment documents obtained by the Tribune, however, indicate that Battle was on law-enforcement radars long before the alleged murder.
As early as April, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Lake County High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force were reportedly tapping his phone and investigating him regarding the trafficking of narcotics. Back in September, Battle was caught with 73 grams of marijuana and $100,700 in cash in his car, authorities said. Authorities also reportedly managed to link him to 9 ounces of cocaine and three stolen guns found elsewhere, the Post reports.