Sharp disagreements abound in debate between Marion County prosecutor candidates

Sharp disagreements abounded Tuesday night in a debate between incumbent Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears and Republican challenger Cyndi Carrasco as they sparred over his decision not to prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases, policies related to Indiana’s near-total abortion ban and the handling of plea deals and Indiana’s “red flag” law.

The hour-long event held by WRTV and moderated by Rafael Sanchez also drew the candidates into discussions about downtown safety and youth violence in advance of the Nov. 8 election.

Marijuana

Mears, a Democrat, made the decision to discontinue the city’s prosecution of small marijuana possession in his first few months in office. During Tuesday’s debate, he maintained that possession of marijuana charges disproportionately affect Marion County residents of color and aren’t a good use of government resources.

In response, Carrasco alleged that his office had plans to stop prosecuting theft. Mears said this wasn’t true and noted that theft charges do not disproportionately affect people of color.

Carrasco said her approach would be to evaluate marijuana crimes on a case-by-case basis, but that her priority would be violent crime.

Abortion

Mears has said that in light of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade that he will not prosecute women, nurses or doctors for cases involving Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, which he called “unconstitutional.”

Carrasco addressed the issue by sharing that she gave birth to a daughter who died at seven weeks old due to an abnormality.

“It’s no place for me to make a judgment call over a woman that might make a decision that’s different than mine,” Carrasco said.

“I will not prosecute women,” she added. “What I will do is I will prioritize domestic violence cases.”

She criticized Mears for using the issue of abortion to divide the community and distract from addressing violent crime in Indianapolis.

When asked directly if she would prosecute medical professionals under the state’s new abortion law, she said: ” I would take every case on a case-by-case basis and make informed decisions. But make no mistake, going after doctors and nurses is not at all my priority.”

She said her focus will be on dealing with violent crime.

Mears said his decision on the abortion law was made to stand up for women in Marion County, not to divide.

Bail, plea deals

Mears said the Indiana Constitution needs to be altered to allow bail to be denied to violent offenders. Currently, he said, this is only allowed in cases of murder or treason.

Carrasco said the prosecutor should work with the judiciary for changes and criticized Mears’ use of plea deals.

Mears said the actual cases are often more complicated than newspaper headlines, with noncompliant witnesses or evidentiary issues often causing a lesser sentence. Carrasco argued that while plea deals are a necessary tool, better cooperation with law enforcement would allow for more favorable outcomes.

Youth gun violence

To address youth violence, Mears said the Indiana Legislature needs to create legislation to regulate the private sale of guns. The root causes of youth violence, such as mental health issues and addiction, also need to be addressed, he said.

Carrasco said that interactions with the criminal justice system need to teach youth accountability in order for them to adjust their path. In order for Mears’ social programs to be effective, Carrasco said that the outlook of getting assistance needs to look better than the potential positive outcomes from crime without consequences.

Indiana’s red flag law

Carrasco questioned why Mears didn’t take advantage of a “red flag” law that might have kept firearms out of the hands of the shooter in the April 2021 FedEx facility mass shooting. The law can be invoked to prevent people exhibiting signs of mental illness from legally possessing firearms.

Carrasco said that as prosecutor she would develop a team aimed at prevention and utilizing tools like the red flag law.

Mears said the only way to keep guns out of the hands of “flagged” individuals is for the state to regulate private gun sales, such as those conducted over the internet or at gun shows.  Follow-up mental health resources for those who have had a gun confiscated is also necessary, he said.

Downtown

Downtown Indianapolis is safe, Mears said. For the homeless population, Mears suggested that court-ordered moves to uninhabited hotels on the west side of Indianapolis could provide a housing solution and clear up some issues in the area.

Carrasco said downtown business owners have reached out to her with concerns. She said that the perception that downtown is unsafe is a reality and that the homeless population is driving away business. Carrasco also said that since Mears took office in 2019, his proposed solution comes too late.

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13 thoughts on “Sharp disagreements abound in debate between Marion County prosecutor candidates

    1. Tim the leading article is currently “Logistics company to move into Circle Centre Mall space”.

      Here is another quote from that story you didn’t read…“We wanted this to be a best-in-class office for employees, but also have other amenities,” Likens said. “So as residential comes in, it can be a kind of work, live, play focus—everything being right in one place. It’s walkable with entertainment and restaurants downtown, and it gives our employees an opportunity to really engage with that community and build upon the long-term vision that Circle Centre ownership has for the property.”

      Sounds like they are very concerned about feeling safe and the VIOLENT CRIME!!!!!! that Carrasco uses as her crutch to speak to older white voters who are too scared to actually go downtown- like my parents. Have a good one!

    2. This is the funniest example of someone only reading the headline – and misreading the headline – to try to incorrectly prove a point.

      Thanks for the chuckle, Q

    3. Yes, he misread the article. This doesn’t mean perceptions of DT safety are improving. We all know they aren’t.

      Nate can keep deluding himself though. Really cute that he throws race in the mix–but people of his ideology just can’t help themselves. Self delusion is working wonders for Chicago, where Water Tower Place is likely to go into receivership. Unlike Circle Centre, it was in pretty good shape just 4 years ago.

      A logistics company is moving into a former Nordstrom. Nothing against logistics, but this is not usually something most people would consider an upgrade. They typically need big amounts of floor space available on the cheap.

    4. There’s plenty to discuss as it pertains to safety, social and mental health services, and housing, but let’s not blame the decline of Circle Centre on “crime and homelessness.” Circe Centre (and Water Tower Place) are following the national trend among all malls, both urban and suburban. Outdoor, sidewalk-facing commercial does well, interior not so much. E-commerce has reduced the need for brick-and-mortar space and has been impacting malls for over a decade.

      Am I saying that crime and a lack of social services isn’t a problem? Of course not, but let’s be intellectually honest about national trends and not assume causality based purely on speculative correlation. Downtown Indianapolis, in terms of office space occupancy, continues to dominate the region and is one of only three submarkets (out of twelve) in all of Central Indiana to have a positive absorption rate in Q2.

      There are still many problems and we must continue to work on them, promote infill, and improve cleanliness and security. However, market indicators (positive commercial and office absorption rates and 96% occupancy of residential units) indicate that the perception of downtown among the broader populous is not one of danger.

    5. Tim is talking about Backhaul Direct moving out of downtown. Not the recent article you are referencing. The owner of Backhaul was accosted on the street on the way to wok.

    6. Thank you, David. I knew he was referencing that company moving to Fishers but couldn’t remember their name or find the article about it.

  1. As a lifetime Republican, it’s no surprise that I support Carrasco. What is surprising is that for the first time I really, truly, feel like the current Prosecutor is a very serious problem and a detriment to our city. Mears must go! It’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party did not stop his candidacy in the primary, now a county that leans Democrat must vote him out in the general election.

    Please talk with people. Marion County deserves better.

  2. What Clint said… I do not believe that elected prosecutors have the right to judge the merits of legislation and decide what they agree with or do not like. This is an indefensible position. Their job is to enforce laws and protect the public. Mears must go.

  3. Just saw a TV campaign ad for Mears. The key points communicated were his stand on abortion and marijuana while ignoring the continuing crime in our city that affects the majority. He blames the State for the issues regarding gun violence, red flag laws and bail. Blaming others and absolving oneself of accountability is indicative of a poor leader.
    After you read of an arrest go to my case.in.gov and do a search of the person arrested. Most of the time you will find that the person has a long criminal history and you can see where plea deals were made for lesser offenses. Plea deals make conviction rates higher but they let criminals back on the streets.

    1. To be fair, the State definitely deserves some blame. Their free-for-all stance on firearms, pre-emptive legislation on localities, and total failure to address systemic issues contributed to this mess.

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