(ENGLISH) - Former Paoli Community Schools Superintendent Alva Sibbitt Jr. will serve 30 days on house arrest after being found guilty of resisting law enforcement by a Crawford County jury.
He was convicted on October 2.
Crawford Circuit Court Judge K. Lynn Lopp issued an 18-month sentence Monday, and then suspended all but the 30 days.
Sibbitt is currently employed as the superintendent of schools in Cannelton and, under the terms of his sentence he will be allowed to travel to and from work.
According to court records, Lopp issued - and then suspended - sentences for three remaining counts for which Sibbitt was found guilty: 18 months for intimidation, a Class D felony; one year for resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor; and one year for criminal recklessness, a Class A misdemeanor.
Sibbitt was placed on probation for one year.
Scott Callahan, Sibbitt's attorney, asked that Lopp immediately enter the two felonies as misdemeanors. Lopp instead ruled that Sibbitt, at the end of his probation period, could petition the court then to ask that the felonies be modified to misdemeanors.
"I don't think anyone walks away from here with a good feeling," Lopp said after announcing the sentence.
Callahan asked Judge Lopp take a number of mitigating circumstances into consideration, and Prosecutor Kelly Minton characterized Sibbitt as having a lack of respect for law enforcement and was in need of rehabilitation. Minton also told the judge that reducing the sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.
But Loop agreed with Callahan saying Sibbit was not likely to re-offend and had no criminal history before his arrest in December 2010. Lopp also considered Sibbitt's age before sentencing him. Sibbitt was 68 in Dec. 2010.
Callahan called a number of character witnesses on Sibbitt's behalf. All testified that the behavior that led to Sibbitt's arrest was uncharacteristic and they didn't want to see Sibbitt's job at Cannelton jeopardized.
Those witnesses included Paoli attorney J.C. Tucker, former Paoli Principal James Babcock, and former Paoli school board members Joe Kimmel and James Walters.
Orange Circuit Court Judge Larry Blanton was also called, but he would only address his friendship with Sibbitt and would not offer thoughts on what he believed would be appropriate in sentencing because it was not his "province."
Sibbitt was arrested after he was stopped for a seat belt violation by Indiana State Police Trooper Robert Lambert Water Street, in Orleans.
Lambert testified during the trial that Sibbitt disregarded two stop signs, that his speech was slurred and that he had an open container in his car, leading Lambert to request that Sibbitt take a portable breath test. Sibbitt declined, and Lambert told him he would be cited for refusal.
Sibbitt testified that he told Lambert he had a right to take a test at the jail and that he asked Lambert to take him to there or to follow him there. Police say that, when Lambert went back to his car to write Sibbitt a ticket for refusal, Sibbitt rammed the back end of the school-owned vehicle he was driving into Lambert's police car. Sibbitt then was arrested, was taken to the Orange County Jail and then to the hospital in Paoli. He was checked and was administered a test that revealed he had not been drinking.
Callahan, maintained throughout the trial that Lambert had no reasonable suspicion to request that Sibbitt take the breath test and had violated Sibbitt's constitutional rights. Lambert testified that he had in fact been wrong in telling Sibbitt that he could be cited for refusing to take the test.
In Callahan's closing statements at the trial, he said police omitted, from their police report that test results showed Sibbitt had not been using alcohol or drugs.
Minton, told the jury that Callahan only wanted to show that "the cops are liars" and did not focus on his client's actions which were wrong.
In calling upon the jury to find Sibbitt guilty, Minton said, "It's not because of who he is, but because of what he's done. The defendant is responsible for his actions."
Have a question or comment about a news story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org