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March 4, 2013

Attorney banned from prison after reported relations with inmate

Prison official says visitation rules remain unchanged

Cass County attorney Lisa Traylor-Wolff was banned from the Miami Correctional Facility after she reportedly had a sexual encounter with an inmate in the visitation room, according to a facility spokesperson.

Traylor-Wolff, who is also a senior judge, was delivered three formal charges Monday from the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications after she was reported to have engaged in kissing and excessive fondling with her client. Ann Hubbard, public information officer at Miami Correctional Facility, said she believes guards from the visitation room reported the incidents, though they were reported to take place in a room outside of video camera observation.

According to an official statement from the Indiana Supreme Court,  Traylor-Wolff and the defendant were seen “engaged in excessive fondling with intent to sexually gratify over the clothing” while in the visitation room on June 15, 2012. The cause number in the statement leads to Scott Wampler, a 26-year-old Monticello man, who Traylor-Wolff represented as a public defender in an August 2011 burglary and criminal confinement case.

Traylor-Wolff is reported to have been involved in a “romantic relationship” with Wampler since May 2012, when she submitted briefs for Wampler’s appeal of his 40-year-sentence. She also represented him in his original case.

Hubbard said the reported incidents resulted in Traylor-Wolff being banned from visiting any clients at the facility. She said that she believed Traylor-Wolff could request to visit the facility at a later date, but she would need permission from the superintendent.

“I know there’s a certain time period,” Hubbard said.

Dave Arnold, president of the Cass County Commissioners, said the county has a contract with Sheryl Pherson and Bob Murray, who are responsible for managing the county’s public defenders. The contract outlines that the public defenders must be “in good standing with the bar” to continue in their jobs.

Arnold said he was not sure whether the pending charges would affect the contract with Traylor-Wolff, who is one of the county’s six public defenders.

Neither Pherson nor Murray could be reached for comment.

Traylor-Wolff has 20 days to file a response to the charges, after which she awaits a public hearing to decide on the penalty. She could face penalties ranging from a public reprimand to losing her law license or being permanently banned from holding judicial office in Indiana.

Wampler received a loss of jail credit time and a disciplinary write-up, according to the formal statement from the Indiana Supreme Court. Hubbard said she could not comment on what happened during his disciplinary hearing.

He was then transferred Jan. 9, 2013, to Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Hubbard said she believes the facility’s legal representative filed the letter with the Indiana Supreme Court after officers reported the incidents.  

“If it’s documented then it must have been brought up,” Hubbard said.

The visitation room is monitored by two staff members and a video camera. But attorneys are able to meet with their clients in a room just off of the visitation room, Hubbard said.

She said attorneys are able to close the door if the visitation room is busy, but the door has a large window in it, allowing the guards to see the top half of the room .

“They can monitor their visit or meeting through that window,” Hubbard said.  

The facilities rules outline that visitors are allowed a “brief hug and a kiss” at the beginning and end of the visit as well as hand-holding, otherwise they’re in violation of the facility rules.

“Anytime there’s any physical contact other than what’s allowed, then it’s a violation,” Hubbard said.

She said she did not believe an incident like this had happened before.

Hubbard added that she did not believe the reported incidents had altered any visitation rules.

“I don’t believe anything’s changed in visitation,” Hubbard said.  

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.

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