Sullivan guilty plea on hold
MICHIGAN CITY – La Porte County Council member John P. Sullivan attempted to plead guilty Thursday to a felony residential entry charge he picked up last year, but the judge denied his attempt until after the victim can address the court.
Robert Ives, special prosecutor appointed to the case after the La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office withdrew, told the court the woman is aware of the plea agreement, but he couldn’t say with certainty whether she approves of its terms.
Sullivan, 58, admitted Thursday to having engaged in “the act of breaking” in order to enter a 39-year-old Wanatah woman’s home without her authorization while she was away on May 14, 2018.
He was arrested for the crime in August, and was scheduled to face a jury in the matter in La Porte Superior Court 1 beginning May 20.
Judge Michael Bergerson agreed to vacate the trial date, but declined to accept the plea agreement until after the victim can express to the court how she feels about the deal Sullivan has been offered.
According to the plea agreement, Sullivan would receive a deferred judgment, allowing him to return to court for sentencing nearly two years from now, on April 15, 2021.
In the meantime, he would remain free on the $750 cash bond he posted shortly after his arrest, and would have to abide by the rules of probation – including the possibility of being ordered to undergo a mental health assessment and treatment, if necessary.
Additionally, Sullivan would not be allowed to serve in office as an elected official during that term, meaning he would be forced to tender his resignation to the County Council upon acceptance of his plea.
Should he complete probation satisfactorily, Sullivan’s Level 6 felony residential entry charge would be entered as a Class A misdemeanor upon sentencing in 2021.
Bergerson scheduled the case to reappear before him on May 23, to allow the victim the opportunity to express her thoughts on the plea deal at that time.
If the judge does not accept the agreement, Sullivan’s plea will return to that of “not guilty”; his admission in court Thursday will be removed from the record; and a new jury trial date will be scheduled.
In the event he would be convicted of the felony he faces, Sullivan could be sentenced up to 2.5 years in prison and fined up to $10,000.
County Council President Randy Novak confirmed that Sullivan had not yet tendered his resignation by the end of the day Thursday.
Defense attorney Scott Pejic said in August that Sullivan had not been breaking and entering, but that he was checking on a vacant home near the Cass Township fire station because “he thought something didn’t look right.”
Pejic classified the former coroner, firefighter and school bus driver as a “good Samaritan” and maintained his client’s innocence.