5:08 PM EST, March 11, 2010
Only on Fox59 News, the Hamilton County Prosecutor is speaking about the secrecy surrounding the alleged Carmel basketball players sexual assault case.
It was three weeks ago the story broke and the investigation began. Fox59 News reporter Kimberly King sat down exclusively with Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp, who will determine if criminal charges will be filed in this case.
She said it could be a matter of days or weeks, but one thing Sonia wants viewers to know is there is secrecy for a reason: to protect the victims. And that's where we began our conversation with her.
NOTE: Below is the interview, with uncut, and unedited answers from both reporter Kim King and the prosecutor.
Reporter Kimberly King: "At the heart of it are the victims have you spoke to them how are they doing?"
Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp: "It's my understanding they are doing about as well as can be expected. I know the parents of the victims are taking measures to make sure those individuals are receiving proper care and support and things of that nature."
King: "The perception in the public is there has been a veil of secrecy from Carmel police to school officials, what would you say about how this case has been handled by police and school from your years as prosecutor in Hamilton County?"
Leerkamp: "Well first of all, I think both doing very best to respond to situation and the other thing I really want your viewers to focus on is, what if this was your child? Whether your child was the victim or yours who was the potential accused, how much would you want out there in the public for everyone to be making judgments on what happened to your particular child?
"Prosecutors have to be very sensitized to people jumping to judgment because they have part of the information before they've concluded a formal investigation, and we haven't even made a determination in this case that a crime has occurred."
"And it is particularly difficult when you have a lot of people to interview and you have people, sometimes memories can be distorted about what they've heard, as opposed to what they actually remember seeing. So police have to be meticulous about their investigation and guarding against those kinds of influences."
King: "One of alleged victims came forward weeks after January 22nd (the date of the alleged hazing incident on the Carmel freshman basketball bus). Can you give our viewers an idea of why that happened and why the delay?"
Leerkamp: "We did talk yesterday about me making any comments specifically about this investigation and I wont do that. But I will talk in general about these types of allegations and that it is not unusual at all for a young person to delay reporting. There are so many factors that weigh into how a young person processes what has happened to them.Sometimes they don't even understand that what may have happened may be a crime. They also don't want the stigma to attach that comes from making a formal report."
"It can involve stigma of other kids making fun of them or ostracizing them because they've made such a report. All of those things are particularly sensitive when you have adolescent individual involved and processing what should I do with what's happened to me."
We talked with Leerkamp about a range of subjects related to the Carmel sexual hazing allegations. She reiterated she would not discuss specific testimony police have on what happened on the freshman team's bus, but she fully supported Carmel Police Department's decision to black out much of the alleged details in the victim's report that also has the date blacked out.
King: "Would you have redacted a similar way, you know what, in blacked out areas?"
Leerkamp: "You know, when a case still in status of just allegations I don't think anyone's entitled to know anything."
King: "Have you heard of any indication of financial influence possibly a scholarship to a private school to silence one of these victims?"
Leerkamp: "Absolutely not"
"There have been between 30 and 60 interviews done so far. I met with police on this case Monday to get a sense of who had been interviewed and whether a need for additional re-interviews of some of those individuals."
King: "Does the evidence indicate there could be additional incidents investigated?"
Leerkamp: "I'm not going to answer that question." (Leerkamp indicated she is not allowed to talk about specifics of the case until if and when criminal charges are file)
King: "Is there any indication racial motivation in the case?"
Leerkamp: "No, not at all."
King: "Where do you feel you are right now, close? Days weeks?"
Leerkamp: "I kind of feel like we're still in the middle of assessing everything so."
King: "Days or weeks?"
Leerkamp: "Days or weeks it could be either one. I think I told you about the analogy to the Duke lacrosse case and how that can blow up in your face if all your decisions tend to be motivated by publicity or public desire to hear a decision and I don't want to operate like that especially in a case where children may be victims."
King: "Why do you think this is such a highly charged case?"
Leerkamp: "I think anytime you have allegations of things happening within a school, it becomes very highly charged because you have the public perceiving school is a safe place for their child to be and they want to be able to trust the administration and teachers to be able to look after their children. They (parents) want to believe kids are going to treat each other with proper respect and when they find out something may have happened there, it's very unsettling for a parent to be confronted with the reality their child may be in an environment that could harm them."