Hogsett Announces Perjury Charges As Child Sexual Exploitation Case Expands
Henry County DCS employee arrested for perjury and lying to federal agents
INDIANAPOLIS– Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today that the former local director of the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) and member of the New Castle Community School Corporation’s school board has been charged by criminal complaint with one count of perjury and one count of making a materially false statement.
Michael Fleming, 58, of New Castle, has been charged for his role in allegedly lying in front of a federal grand jury and to federal agents who were following up on a criminal complaint previously filed against Darrell Hughes by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Specifically, Hughes is charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and attempted exploitation of a child. It is alleged that Hughes made contact with boys who he would have met at an alternative school operated by the New Castle School system. The alternative school is commonly referred to as North Campus.
As part of its mission, DCS receives and investigates allegations of inappropriate behavior victimizing children. Also it normally maintains records of such investigations. It was, therefore, predictable for investigators to seek to determine if DCS had records of any such allegations of inappropriate behavior by Hughes.
The criminal complaint pertaining to Fleming unsealed this morning alleges that on February 4, 2014, agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) went to Fleming’s office in New Castle to further the investigation of Hughes. Agents served Fleming with a subpoena to testify in front of the grand jury. At that time, the agents asked Fleming whether he knew that Hughes had been arrested. He acknowledged that he did. When asked if he had ever heard complaints of alleged misconduct or inappropriate behavior by Hughes, Fleming said no. The agents soon left the DCS office and asked Fleming to call with any follow-up information.
The complaint further alleges that on February 18, 2014, Fleming testified in front of the federal grand jury for the Southern District of Indiana. During that testimony Fleming stated that he was familiar with Hughes because of counseling services that Hughes provided to children but was not aware of any complaints related to Hughes before his arrest.
On February 24, 2014, federal agents were contacted by legal counsel for DCS and informed that Fleming had been terminated from his position as local DCS director for encouraging a DCS subordinate employee to make false statements in the Hughes investigation. The DCS subordinate employee reported to supervisors that a complaint has been made against Hughes on at least one occasion and Fleming, indeed, knew of this complaint. Fleming then encouraged that subordinate employee to make untruthful statements in the Hughes investigation. After his grand jury testimony, Fleming told the same employee that he gave inaccurate or incomplete information to the grand jury stating, “I didn’t tell them anything, I guess I told a little white lie, if anyone asks, don’t say anything.”
“Interfering with an investigation will not be tolerated by this office,” said U.S. Attorney Hogsett. “But when the crime involves the exploitation of Hoosier children and lying by a public official, it is even more egregious.”
"These charges allege that Mr. Fleming chose to lie rather than assist authorities as they investigated allegations of child sexual exploitation that took place under his watch,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of HSI Chicago. “The defendant betrayed the public trust by placing his own self-interest above the needs of the young victims in this case. HSI works tirelessly to protect innocent children from sexual predators, and we will hold those who attempt to interfere with a criminal investigation accountable for their actions.”
According to U.S. Attorney’s Office Senior Litigation Counsel Steven DeBrota, Fleming could face up to 13 years’ in federal prison if convicted on both charges and be fined up to $500,000.
This case has been jointly investigated by HSI and the Hamilton County Child Exploitation Task Force.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.