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Indiana Court of Appeals overturns conviction against former Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising

Teising (right) and her attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman (left), walking out of court during Teising’s trial in January (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)
Teising (right) and her attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman (left), walking out of court during Teising’s trial in January (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday overturned the conviction against former Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising.

Teising was previously found guilty of 21 counts of theft, for continuing to take her trustee salary while not a legal resident of the township.

Questions about Teising’s residency, and the community’s desire to remove her, eventually led to changes in state law - creating a new process for removing trustees from office.

During her trial, the state presented evidence outlining how few days she had spent within the township - describing a “nomadic RV lifestyle.”

The state’s evidence also showed that over a nine-month period, Teising spent just 10% of her time at a Knox Drive residence in the township.

But the Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower court's finding, arguing that her absences needed to be considered in the broader context of the pandemic.

“There was an ongoing worldwide pandemic and she, like countless others, worked remotely,” Judge Robert Altice wrote.

According to Altice, Teising could not lose her residency in Wabash Township until she established residency somewhere else.

“This she did not do,” he wrote.

“In sum, the State failed to present sufficient evidence that Teising intended to abandon her Wabash Township domicile and establish a new residence elsewhere,” Altice concluded, writing that the court “erred” in finding her guilty.

When reached for comment, the office of Attorney General Todd Rokita replied that they were “evaluating the decision to decide whether to seek further review.”

“Taxpayer money should not be handed over to elected officials who don’t stick around to serve their community,” a spokesperson wrote. “Here, the evidence presented by the State showed the defendant was guilty of theft; however, the Court of Appeals disagreed.”

In a statement, Jennifer Teising said that she agreed with the Court of Appeals decision - and directly called out Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington.

“I served the people of Wabash Township and continue to be disappointed that Pat Harrington wastes taxpayer dollars on this political prosecution,” she wrote. “At this time, I am considering my next steps but for today, I am vindicated.”

Teising’s attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman, wrote that she didn’t think the case would merit a further appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

“[But] should a petition to transfer be filed, we will be prepared to deal with it,” she said.

This story has been updated with comments from Jennifer Teising, her attorney, and the Office of Attorney General Todd Rokita.