INDIANAPOLIS— A WRTV Investigation reveals alleged victims of crimes in Indiana waiting years for their cases to be resolved, including a Marion County rape case that’s still pending six years later.
What’s more—WRTV Investigates uncovered no one appears to be tracking the length of criminal cases in our state.
We could not find any state, city or local agency that is keeping track of how long alleged victims and defendants have to wait for justice.
Delayed justice is an issue impacting public safety, plus we the taxpayers pay for the state’s judicial system. The state, cities, counties, towns and townships spend approximately $511 million a year on the judicial system.
A warning: the following content may be disturbing or triggering to some of our readers.
“I’m never going to see justice”: Robyn Matthews story
Robyn Matthews has been waiting for six years.
“Each time a case date approaches, I stress out for the entire month before,” said Robyn. “I get panic attacks I don't tell my fiancé about."
Robyn reached out to WRTV Investigates and said her alleged rapist’s criminal case had been pending in Marion County for six years.
When WRTV Investigates looked up the case, we found the case summary alone is 34 pages long.
“I’m frustrated, and I’ve had six years to be frustrated,” Robyn said. “I just feel like nobody cares anymore."
Robyn in 32 years old now.
In February 2016, she was 26 years old—out in Broad Ripple, drinking with a friend when the two got separated.
Prosecutors allege a man named Thomas Stone approached Robyn and told her he played for the Colts.
Robyn got into his white Cadillac Escalade, thinking Stone was taking her to her friends— not knowing the Colts have no records of Stone ever playing for the team.
Court documents allege Stone took Robyn to his house on Vistamere Way where he forced her to perform oral sex, and then raped her—an allegation Stone denies.
Stone drove to a gas station, which is when Robyn was able to get out and call police, court records allege.
Robyn later got a sexual assault exam, and the DNA was a match for Stone, prosecutors said in court documents.
On March 10, 2016, Marion County prosecutors charged Thomas Stone in connection with Robyn’s incident with rape, kidnapping and criminal confinement.
But the case is still pending six years later and Robyn is concerned the charges will be dismissed.
“I’m never going to see justice,” Robyn said. “I feel like the case is falling apart.”
Courtroom audio obtained by WRTV Investigates show Judge Grant Hawkins made the following comment to a prosecutor during an online hearing in July.
“This case is so old, we’re using your old name, Miss Bibbs,” remarked Judge Hawkins.
Robyn says the comment enraged her.
“It makes me so mad,” Robyn said. “I thought ‘wow I'm glad this is funny to you because this sucks on my end.’ I could only watch it happen."
Robyn, who now lives in a different county, is not alone in feeling this way.
“I thought I was going to die”: Mikayla Devore’s story
Mikayla Devore is a second alleged victim in the same criminal case against Thomas Stone.
Prosecutors say in January 2016, Stone approached Mikayla while she was sitting outside of a downtown bar and claimed to be an Uber driver and a Colts player.
“I was about to get an Uber, and I was on the phone,” Mikayla said.
Stone then took Mikayla to his house on Vistamere Way, court records allege.
“I could feel him behind me and I turned around,” Mikayla said. “At that point, I thought for sure I was going to die."
Prosecutors allege Stone forced Mikayla to perform oral sex—an allegation Stone denies.
“I was crying the whole time and that was making him upset or mad,” Mikayla said.
Mikayla says Thomas Stone agreed to drive her home.
According to prosecutors, when Stone stopped his car along an interstate off-ramp, Mikayla got out and called the police.
"I thought for sure he would kill me, and this was like my one opportunity to get away or it would be over,” Mikayla said.
Mikayla had a sexual assault exam and samples matched Stone, court records allege.
In total, Thomas Stone is charged with 16 felony counts including intimidation, rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, and criminal confinement.
The charges including allegations involving a third woman who we are not naming because she did not agree to speak with WRTV.
At the time of the incident, Mikayla was 20 years old. She’s now 27 and a mother.
“At this point, it's not being taken seriously,” Mikayla said. “Six years. In that time, a lot of detail can be lost."
Mikayla was drinking the night of the alleged assault and is concerned that may impact her ability to remember details.
“If I can’t remember the answer or can’t recall, here we are with unanswered questions the jury can’t get answers to,” Mikayla said.
Not Tracked: No state or local agency tracking length of criminal cases
Six years sounds like a long time for justice.
But WRTV Investigates wanted to find out for sure.
We checked with the Indiana Office of Court Services, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Marion County Clerk’s Office, the Marion County Court Administrator, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, as well as statewide associations representing both prosecutors and public defenders.
No one appears to be tracking how long criminal cases take in Indiana.
The state does track a slew of other data including the number of cases filed, the outcomes of the cases, court expenses and revenues, as well as a breakdown of the data by county.
However, we could not find a single state or local agency in Indiana that examines how long criminal cases take to work their way through our judicial system.
We asked clinical professor of law, Novella Nedeff, at the IU McKinney School of Law whether she’s ever heard of a criminal case lasting six years.
“That’s a long time,” Nedeff said. “That is shocking. I bet that is a real outlier in Marion County and probably most places.”
Nedeff said she was surprised no one appears to be tracking how long criminal cases take in our state.
“That does surprise me,” Nedeff said. “I know it’s not readily available because I’ve tried to look for those statistics.”
According to the National Center for State Courts, the average time from charges to disposition is 256 days for a felony case. Indiana did not participate in the analysis.
“The older a case gets, the better”: A public defender weighs in
Jefferson County Chief Public Defender Devon Sharpe is not involved in the Stone case, but WRTV Investigates asked him to provide some insight on why a case can drag on.
“Six years seems like an awfully old criminal case,” Sharpe said. “That seems awfully excessive."
In the Thomas Stone case, WRTV Investigates counted at least eight different continuances granted by the Marion County judge for various reasons.
Sharpe said it is a common strategy for a defense attorney to request continuances.
“As a defense attorney, the older a case gets, the better, frankly,” Sharpe said. “Typically, over time you lose track of witnesses, people move, and people’s memories become faded which makes it easier to challenge at a trial sometimes. Some of the evidence is hard to track down.”
Sharpe said prosecutors often feel more pressure to wrap things up the longer it goes on.
“Typically as the case gets older, it gets easier and easier to resolve because the state begins to feel the pressure of getting the case resolved,” Sharpe said.
Delayed justice can be difficult on defendants as well, who are innocent until proven guilty.
"I've had several clients who say ‘look I've got to get something done here— either it's a conviction or not,’” Sharpe said. “They’ll say ‘I just need to know. It will impact the jobs I'm applying for.’ Getting those cases behind them can be important, but at what cost."
The reasons why justice can be delayed
WRTV Investigates uncovered justice can be delayed for many reasons:
- Complexity: Thomas Stone’s case involves a lot of discovery and evidence, multiple witnesses, as well as three separate accusers. Stone’s attorney wants the accuser’s allegations tried separately, but prosecutors have pushed to keep them together, saying it was all “part of a single scheme.”
- Caseloads: Caseloads are a factor for prosecutors and defense attorneys who are juggling many cases, as well as for the courts themselves. Marion County handles 10 times the number of criminal cases than surrounding counties.
- COVID-19: COVID-19 caused courts to delay jury trials, as employees contracted the virus resulting in hundreds of quarantines. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office says they have 37,000 pending criminal cases, which is 5,000 to 10,000 more than usual. While Thomas Stone’s case was pending for four years until COVID-19 hit, the virus has had an impact the past two years. “Trials are so backed up because of COVID, and the courts are hard pressed to get through cases for people in custody,” Nedeff said. “Of course, there was a substantial back up in this case before COVID even became a thing."
- In-Custody: The rules say prosecutors have to try in-custody cases first, where a defendant is locked up before trial. That means cases where the defendant is out of jail are given a lower priority. While Thomas Stone spent 10 months in jail in 2016 and 2017 after a probation violation, Stone was released on bond and has been out of jail for most of the six years. The right to a speedy trial under Criminal Rule 4 only applies to in-custody defendants, not to victims of crimes. Once requested, the defendant is supposed to be tried within 70 days, and if that is violated, the charges can be dismissed.
“Each encounter was consensual”: Response from Thomas Stone’s attorney
Stone did not have anything to say to our cameras at a pre-trial conference on April 14.
WRTV Investigates waited for Stone after the hearing, but Stone did not use either of the public exits outside the courtroom.
A court staffer told us Stone was escorted out a back exit.
WRTV Investigates dug through the case files and found a 2017 motion from Stone’s attorney that says Stone “denies that he forced any of these women to do anything and asserts that each encounter was consensual."
Stone’s attorney, Vincent Scott, told us via e-mail “this is a very unique case” and that Stone has been “subjected to pretrial release conditions throughout this process."
FULL STATEMENT FROM STONE’S ATTORNEY:
"There are several reasons for the delay in bringing these cases to trial. There have been preliminary motions with argument and reconsideration which is a natural part of this type of legal process, and also the delays due to the pandemic and its inability to allow the Court to field a jury. Further the matter was forced to be continued last year because on the eve of trial my mother passed away and this caused me to be away from the practice for a period of time. This is a very unique case, in that there are multiple alleged victims and several additional witnesses which will cause this trial to proceed for several days- during the pandemic it was not possible to attempt such a trial as we could not have that number of people in the Courtroom at any given time. We are now beginning to get some resemblance of normalcy within the trial process. I am mindful of the frustrations that people surrounding this case may have, including my client who has been subjected to pretrial release conditions throughout this process; however, we have experienced several challenges not due to anyone's fault or neglect which have produced these delays. In the face of that adversity, our presiding Judge has steadfastly attempted to ensure that both sides are properly prepared and capable of receiving a fair trial; he should be commended for that resolve as he has dealt with this and many more very arduous cases. I would disagree with the notion that the system is not mindful of the alleged victims' concerns in this matter. Remember, we want to ensure that the trial when it occurs, is a fair trial. It is my hope that your news story does focus on a full picture of circumstances which actually extend beyond the alleged victims frustration with the needed delay to bring these matters to trial.”
The judge has granted Stone’s request to try the cases separately, but it’s not yet clear how that will be handled by the court.
Under the Code of Judicial Code of Conduct, judges may not speak about pending cases
One of the trials is scheduled for July 18-20, 2022.
“It blows my mind”: Push to track the length of criminal cases
“It just feels like a slap in the face,” Robyn said.
Robyn Matthews says prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges need to be held accountable for delaying justice—whatever that might be.
“Even if the outcome is disappointing, I will know that I did everything I could,” Robyn said.
She’s calling on state and local agencies to start tracking how long criminal cases take, so they can pinpoint which ones are languishing.
“There should be data out there, and it blows my mind there isn’t,” Robyn said. “You could see where there are gaps. It needs to happen. We need to be tracking this "
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined an on-camera interview about the Thomas Stone case.
"Regardless of a case's level of complexity or other unique circumstances, such as the pandemic, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office remains dedicated to pursuing justice on behalf of all victims,” Michael Leffler, a spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, said in an email to WRTV.
The cost of justice
Justice isn’t cheap.
The state spent $173,515,263 during Fiscal Year 2020 on the operation of the judicial system.
Counties spent $319,543,829 in Calendar Year 2020; cities, towns, and townships spent $18,695,310 on their respective courts, for a total annual expenditure of $511,754,402.
Expenses include salaries and benefits for prosecutors, judges, clerks, and other court personnel as well as office supplies, utilities and travel.
READ | 2020 Judicial Year in Review
Indiana’s judicial system is funded by a combination of state appropriations, county tax revenues, and user fees.
“At least I could move on”: A 4th accuser’s case is resolved
Thomas Stone requested a speedy trial in a separate rape case involving a fourth woman named Sara Arnold.
Sara says her experience with the criminal justice system was completely different.
Sara’s encounter with Thomas Stone happened on July 1, 2016, while Stone was out on bond on Mikayla Devore and Robyn Matthew’s criminal case.
Sara says she went out to dinner with Thomas Stone.
“He seemed like a decent enough guy,” Sara said. “I was single, didn’t think anything of it. I wasn’t attracted to him by any means.”
Prosecutors allege Stone took Sara to his house on Vistamere Way and raped her.
Sara had a sexual assault exam and the samples match stone, court documents allege.
Following the charge against Stone in Sara’s case, the judge found Stone violated probation on the other case and sent Stone to jail to await trial.
After spending half a year locked up in the Marion County Jail, Stone requested a speedy trial in Sara’s case.
Stone told police “he never forced her to do anything.”
In April 2017, a jury acquitted Stone of rape in Sara’s case.
Sara says the jury did not hear anything about the three other accusers.
“It was ultimately my word against his," Sara said.
But Sara says her experience with the criminal justice system was much different than the other women.
“Even though he was found not guilty, at least I was able to feel like I could move on,” Sara said. “It was at least something I could put behind me."
After 10 months in jail and his acquittal in Sara’s case, the court released Thomas Stone on bond again.
Stone is still awaiting trial in the case involving Robyn Matthews, Mikayla Devore, and the third accuser.
Sara hopes Stone’s other accusers will also be able to move on.
“My heart goes out to these girls,” Sara said. “I can't imagine trying to anticipate when you're going to have to face this guy again. That was the hardest part. Staring him in the face."
TIMELINE IN THOMAS STONE CRIMINAL CASES
- January 29, 2016- Alleged assault against Mikayla Devore
- February 25, 2016- Alleged assault against Robyn Matthews
- March 5, 2016- Alleged assault against a 3rd woman who we are not naming because she did not agree to speak with us.
- March 5, 2016- Stone is arrested, and released on bond the next day, jail records show.
- March 10, 2016- Marion County prosecutors file 11 rape, criminal confinement and kidnapping charges against Thomas Stone
- April 25, 2016- Marion County prosecutors file additional charges against Stone for the 3rd woman, bringing the total to 16 felony charges including rape, attempted rape, intimidation, criminal confinement and kidnapping.
- July 1, 2016- Alleged assault against Sara Arnold.
- July 1, 2016- Police arrest Thomas Stone in connection with Sara’s incident and he is booked into the Marion County jail. The court orders he be held without bond.
- July 5, 2016- Prosecutors charge Thomas Stone with rape in Sara’s case, which is a different case number than the three other women.
- February 10, 2017- While still incarcerated in the Marion County jail, Stone requests a speedy trial on Sara’s case
- April 19, 2017- A jury finds Stone not guilty of rape in Sara’s case
- May 9, 2017- Stone is released from the Marion County jail but remains on home detention.
- December 14, 2017- The court grants a motion for continuance in the case involving Robyn Matthews, Mikayla Devore and a 3rd woman. Court says Stone must stay away from establishments that serve alcohol.
- July 3, 2018- The court grants another continuance.
- October 31, 2018- The court grants another continuance.
- December 28, 2018- Stone is released from home detention, but remains on GPS monitoring and must stay away from establishments that serve alcohol.
- March 22, 2019- The court grants another continuance.
- March 2, 2020- The court grants another continuance.
- June 1, 2021- The court grants another continuance.
- July 26, 2021- At the urging of Stone’s attorney, the judge agrees to separate the women into different cases, but it’s not yet clear when or how their cases will be tried.
- July 26, 2021- Judge says Stone is not allowed on dating sites or in any establishment that serves alcohol.
- October 26, 2021- The court grants another continuance
- February 17, 2022- The court grants another continuance.
- April 14, 2022- A pre-trial conference takes place, and a judge sets a trial for July 18-20, 2022.
Coming forward is an “empowering process” regardless of outcome, advocates say
The women WRTV spoke with say they do not regret coming forward, even though they’re disappointed in the criminal justice system.
The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking says it’s important for people to report sexual assault for two reasons — for their own healing, and to hold perpetrators accountable.
“Coming forward as a survivor is a very empowering process, and even though the criminal justice system may not be as responsive or prompt as it should be- it's the beginning of healing for the survivor and is the first step in taking some of that power back,” said Beth White, executive director at ICESAHT.
Beth White, a former prosecutor in Marion County, said sexual assault is about power and control.
"We have got to hold perpetrators accountable,” White said. “The other thing we know about sexual assault is that most perpetrators are serial perpetrators. Someone who wants to assert power and control over people is not someone that does that one time.”
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, below are some resources and organizations you can reach out to for help.
- RAINN 1-800-656-HOPE https://www.rainn.org/
- Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault 317-624-2370 https://icesaht.org/
- Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence https://icadvinc.org/