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Ex-Muncie Mayor released from federal prison less than halfway through sentence

Dennis Tyler convicted of theft of government funds
Former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was released from federal prison in Morgantown West Virginia on Thursday, even though his projected date of release is not until October 14, 2022.
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 19:42:47-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was released from federal prison in Morgantown West Virginia on Thursday, even though his projected date of release is not until October 14, 2022.

In November 2021, a federal judge sentenced Tyler to a year in prison after a years-long federal investigation.

Tyler was indicted by a grand jury on Nov. 13, 2019, on one count of theft of government funds. He was arrested by federal agents five days later in Muncie.

Dennis Tyler began his sentence on December 23, 2021 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown.

On June 2, he left prison and was transferred to community confinement overseen by the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) St. Louis Residential Reentry Management (RRM) Office, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Community confinement means the inmate is in either home confinement or a Residential Reentry Center, also known as a halfway house, said the BOP in an email to WRTV.

Tyler’s projected date of release from BOP custody is October 14, 2022.

However, the federal agency declined to provide any information on Tyler’s current location.

“For privacy, safety, and security reasons, we do not disclose an individual's specific location in community confinement, discuss their reasons for transfer to community confinement, or discuss release plans,” said the BOP in an email to WRTV.

WRTV Investigates reached out to the U.S. Attorney's office and Tyler's attorney for comment Tuesday.

In November, a judge sentenced him to one year and one day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

WRTV Investigates asked the Bureau of Prisons why an offender would be allowed to leave prison and spend the rest of their sentence at home or in a halfway house.

The agency released the following statement:

"All eligible inmates have the opportunity to participate in community corrections centers to assist with their reintegration into the community, in accordance with their release needs. More information can be found in Program Statement 7310.04, titled Community Corrections Center (CCC) Utilization and Transfer Procedures, found here.

Additionally, in accordance with the March 26, 2020, and April 3, 2020, guidance issued by the Attorney General, all inmates in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody are reviewed to identify those who are vulnerable, eligible, and appropriate for transfer to a Residential Reentry Center (RRC) or Home Confinement under the CARES Act. The Attorney General's original memorandum instructing the BOP to prioritize home confinement as an appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic may be found here."

Tyler was also ordered to pay $15,250 in restitution to the city of Muncie.

“Mr. Tyler’s greed caught up with him and he will now be held accountable,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana John E. Childress said in a news release in November. “The citizens of Muncie and the hard-working city employees deserved better out of their mayor, and hopefully this sentence will help restore some public trust and confidence in the government that serves them.”

FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said Tyler's sentence shows public corruption will not be tolerated.

"Mr. Tyler was entrusted by the community to represent their interests but instead chose to betray that trust through his abuse of public office for his personal gain,” Keenan said in a news release in November.

He was one of several to be indicted in Operation Public Trust, the federal authorities investigation into corruption within the City of Muncie, which began in 2014.

He struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors in May 2021.

When asked by WRTV’s Kara Kenney as he entered the federal courthouse on Wednesday if he was sorry, Tyler said "Oh absolutely, yes."

It's worth noting this federal investigation is separate from the federal investigation into the Muncie Police Department.

During his sentencing, Tyler said it was his “greatest honor” serving more than 50 years for Muncie as a firefighter, lawmaker and mayor.

“I’m completely helpless," he said. “I could have said no. I was so wrong that day for the decision I made. I've asked myself why.”

He said he’s left a stain on his career and the city of Muncie.

“I’m so sorry for the pain and hurt I’ve caused by my actions,” Tyler said.

When asked by the judge why he's sorry to the citizens, Tyler said “they always looked at me as someone special. I abused that trust and I’m so sorry.”

In a sentencing memo filed on Nov. 2, Childress and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Preston said Tyler's sentence should include time in prison. But during his sentencing on Wednesday, Tyler's attorneys asked for home detention.

The 49-page sentencing memo details how federal authorities say Tyler accepted a $5,000 payment to steer work to a contractor paying for work who charged more than an "honest competitor."

"In doing so, Mr. Tyler chose to serve himself and the interests of insiders who were willing to buy their way into a rigged system. He now joins a dishonorable list of corrupt politicians who have contributed to the growing erosion of public trust and confidence in government," the memo read.

The federal attorneys said his sentence "must reflect the seriousness of his criminal acts, deter others in similar positions from abusing their positions of public trust, and promote respect for the law so as to restore faith in the local system of government." They said his sentence should be at the low end of the sentencing guidelines for imprisonment, which are between 12 to 18 months.

The sentencing memo included some new details about the FBI's investigation and Tyler's alleged involvement in the charge against him, like how he received the $5,000 cash payment in a parking lot in December 2015 in Muncie.

Before he was elected as mayor in 2011, Tyler was a member of the Muncie Fire Department from 1965 to 2007 and was an Indiana State Representative from 2005 to 2011.

Timeline of Operation Public Trust

  • 2014: FBI investigation into Muncie officials begins, according to the sentencing memo.
  • January 2017: FBI serves search warrant at the Building Commissioner's Office at Muncie City Hall. Sources tell WRTV the home of Building Commissioner Craig Nichols was also searched.
  • February 2017: Craig Nichols is arrested by federal authorities.
  • September 2018: Muncie Superintendent of Sewer Maintenance, Tracy Barton, and Jeff Burke, a local businessman, are indicted.
  • January 2019: Craig Nichols is sentenced to two years in federal prison.
  • June 2019: Rodney Barber, a contractor, is indicted on wire fraud-related charges and one charge for a false statement.
  • July 2019: Debra Nicole Grigsby, the district administrator for the Muncie Sanitary District, and Tony Franklin, owner of Franklin Building and Design LLC, are indicted.
  • November 2019: Dennis Tyler is arrested by federal authorities after a grand jury indicts him on one charge.
  • March 2020: Phil Nichols, former chairman of the Democratic party in Delaware County, and Jess Neal, a sergeant for the Muncie Police Department, are indicted.
  • May 2021: Dennis Tyler reaches plea agreement with federal prosecutors.