(LINTON) - Nick Yingling has returned to duty as an active police officer with Linton after settling criminal charges.
Mark Stalcup of the Greene County Daily World reports that Yingling pleaded guilty Oct. 10 to misdemeanor counts of criminal recklessness and disorderly conduct, both class B misdemeanors.
As a condition of his plea, Yingling received 180 days probation, as well as payment of court costs. He received two days credit for time already served.
The patrolman, 31, could not immediately be reached for comment.
"He's on probation with the court, so he has to continue to keep his nose clean," Linton Mayor John Wilkes said, explaining Yingling's return to his post with the Linton Police Department after a unanimous vote by the City Board of Public Works Monday.
"These were very minor misdemeanors, and there was no jail time involved," explained Wilkes. "And it wasn't like he had done anything deliberate to hurt anybody."
Another factor in the Works Board decision, Wilkes said, was the time and cost involved in training a new patrolman, which could include 40 hours of pre-basic training followed by a stint at the Indiana State Police Academy. While Wilkes was uncertain how much hiring a new officer might cost the city, he suggested it could be considerable.
"I know it's quite a bit," he said.
Yingling's conviction and probation means "he knows he's under a microscope," the mayor explained. "We're hoping nothing else happens."
Under a plea agreement negotiated by Special Prosecutor Barry Brown and Sam Shapiro, Yingling's attorney, charges were reduced from the class D felony count of neglect of a dependent resulting in endangerment of that minor child and a class A misdemeanor count of battery resulting in bodily injury.
Those charges, filed against Yingling May 7, stemmed from an apparent bit of wintertime rough-housing gone wrong during Yingling's time as an assistant football coach at Linton-Stockton Schools.
He has since ceased working as a volunteer for the school system.
Police contended Yingling placed a 13-year-old student in a headlock Feb. 23 while students were training in the school weight room. The seventh-grader then lost consciousness, the report contends. The child then fell and struck his head.
An investigation of the incident, however, did not yield criminal charges until nearly three months later.
A warrant was issued for the officer's arrest. He turned himself in.
"From what I understand, and I wasn't there, there were more adults around these children than just Nick, and no one reported it or did anything when it happened," Wilkes observed. "I wasn't there, obviously, but to me it seems like bad judgment."
Yingling was placed on paid administrative leave by the Works Board in May, then shifted to unpaid leave Sept. 5.
Wilkes said the shift from paid administrative leave to unpaid leave had always been a possibility for city workers placed on leave as criminal charges are pending.
"We had just left him with a certain time period where he could get those charges cleared up, but it was up to him to do so, and when the time expired, he hadn't quite gotten those cleared up, so we put him on unpaid leave," Wilkes explained.
Yingling's jury trial had been set for 9 a.m. Oct. 23 in Greene Circuit Court.
Yingling's not the only city employee this year who has been placed on leave as criminal charges are pending. Firefighter Kent "Opie" Wall was also initially placed on paid adminstrative leave Aug. 15 following his arrest.
Wall, 50, faces a class D felony charge of intimidation of a law enforcement officer as well as a separate class A misdemeanor intimidation count.
Those charges stem from a July 9 incident on the Greene-Sullivan State Forest's Richard Lake where Conservation Officer Michael Gregg allegedly was confronted by Wall after investigating reports of a 13-year-old boy trespassing on a personal watercraft he was allegedly operating dangerously.
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