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Government

State Pushes For Denial Of Wabash Trustee's Request For Change Of Prosecutor, Venue

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Trustee Jennifer Teising and her attorney outside of Tippecanoe County Courthouse Tuesday (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Attorneys for the state argued in court on Tuesday that Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising’s request for a change of venue and prosecutor should be denied. 

Teising was indicted in May on charges that she had illegally withdrawn her trustee salary while not a legal resident of the township, charges she denies. 

In late June, Teising's attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman, filed for a change of venue and a special prosecutor, arguing that Teising would not receive a fair trial in Tippecanoe or surrounding counties because of “inflamed” passions due to extensive pretrial publicity. 

And in court on Tuesday, Celestino-Horseman argued that because Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington was a Republican he could not be involved in a case brought against Teising, a Democrat. 

Celestino-Horseman asked Teising while under oath whether she planned to run for her trustee position again in 2022. Teising said that she did.

Attorney Natasha Corbett, arguing on behalf of the state, pushed back on the idea of a conflict of interest, pointing out that the Tippecanoe County Democratic Party has called on Teising to resign and adding that party affiliation alone was not “clear and convincing evidence” of a conflict.

The state also argued against the idea that public awareness of Teising’s case has risen to the point where jurors would be unable to put aside their preconceived notions. Corbett at one point wondered whether the Journal and Courier, where a majority of the news stories submitted as evidence were published, had a large enough readership to influence a jury ahead of a trial. 

Celestino-Horseman disagreed with that line of argument, saying that she didn’t like to think that Tippecanoe County residents would “bury their heads in the sand.”

Celestino-Horseman cited a line from reporter Dave Bangert’s Substack, Based in Lafayette, describing how Teising’s dispute with the prosecutor, the township board, firefighters, and repeated calls to resign had sucked “the air out of every news cycle.”

It’s not clear when Judge Kristen McVey will make her determination on the case.