A Franklin police officer and his wife will not face criminal charges from an October domestic incident at their home, a special prosecutor has determined.
Bryan Burton and Jordan Burton were arrested on felony charges of domestic battery after police were called to their Franklin home Oct. 23. Jordan Burton reported that her husband, Bryan Burton, a 15-year veteran of the Franklin Police Department, had grabbed her arm to stop her from leaving their home, leaving a significant red mark and scratches, and disabled her car battery, according to a Johnson County Sheriff’s report.
Fountain County Prosecutor Daniel L. Askren, who was the appointed special prosecutor in the case, would not answer questions about his decision and how he reached it, such as what proof was lacking or details he learned during an independent investigation.
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“A review of the report submitted, along with an independent investigation into this matter has been conducted, and in evaluating the information and considering the burden of proof placed upon the state, it is concluded that filing criminal charges would not be appropriate against any party,” Askren’s report to Johnson Superior Court 2 states.
Bryan Burton’s attorney, Jay Hoffman, said that they were always very hopeful and confident that Bryan Burton hadn’t done anything to merit a criminal charge.
“We understand that there’s been a 911 call for a domestic disturbance, and police need to come do their job, and that means making sure everyone is protected, and that often means making more than one arrest,” Hoffman said.
The decision comes a week before Burton faces a disciplinary hearing before the Franklin Police Merit Board for two internal police department disciplinary charges — conduct unbecoming an officer and conduct injurious to the public peace or welfare relating to his arrest and his communication with police Chief Tim O’Sullivan prior to his arrest.The chief is asking the merit board to terminate Burton, who has been suspended from his job as a police officer previously and the subject of multiple local or state police investigations in the past eight years.
“I don’t know that it (the decision not to file criminal charges) has any direct bearing on the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, but I think it’s worth noting,” Hoffman said. “If there’s not enough information or evidence for someone to put together a PCA (probable cause affidavit) and charging information, that is the functional equivalent of the preponderance standard. Did he do something that was conduct unbecoming or conduct injurious?” Hoffman said.
O’Sullivan suspended Burton without pay for five days after his arrest. Since then, he has been on paid leave pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, which begins April 19.
While the merit board can terminate an officer who has been convicted of a crime, neither a criminal charge nor a conviction are required to determine that Burton’s conduct was unbecoming an officer.
City and merit board rules give the merit board the authority to discipline an officer if they find the officer guilty of a breach of discipline, such as neglect of duty, violation of rules, neglect or disobedience of orders, continuing incapacity, absence without leave, immoral conduct, conduct injurious to the public health or welcome, conduct unbecoming a member or furnishing information to an applicant for a job or promotion that would give the applicant an advantage, according to merit board members, according to merit board rules.
In criminal court, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a suspect committed a crime. Merit board members make decisions about discipline based on a preponderance of the evidence, which means the allegations are more likely true than not.
Just before 3:30 p.m. Oct. 23, Franklin police were called to Burton’s home due to a family dispute that was reported when a child called 911. Franklin police asked the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to investigate due to Burton’s job as a city police officer.Jordan Burton told police she had come home that Sunday afternoon and found her stepson, his girlfriend and Jordan and Bryan’s baby inside the home. She had not wanted some of the people involved to be caring for her baby due to a previous incident with the child, so she took the child and began to walk outside, the report said. Her plan was to get in a vehicle and leave, the report said. Her husband, Bryan Burton, had been upstairs, heard the incident, and he and a juvenile followed her out of the home.
Bryan Burton told her she wasn’t taking the child, and he grabbed her arm in an attempt to keep her from getting to the car parked in the driveway, she told sheriff’s deputies. She told deputies she was able to get away from Burton and make it to the car, but the juvenile came to her car door and kept her from closing the door, the report said. The juvenile also got her car keys away from her, while Bryan Burton began removing the vehicle battery so that she could not use her spare set of keys and leave, the report said.
She told deputies that she had pain from her husband grabbing her arm, and the sheriff’s deputy saw what he described as a “significant red mark” and scratches, the report said. A child told deputies he called 911 when his mother asked him to, and that he saw his mother being grabbed by Bryan Burton, and that he told the 911 dispatcher what he saw, the report said.
The other juvenile told police that he took the car keys from Jordan Burton to keep her from leaving because he was concerned about the baby not being in a car seat, and that Jordan Burton had hit him in the head after he had gotten the car keys away from her, the report said, and deputies saw a slight red mark. Once Jordan Burton had hit the juvenile, Bryan Burton told Jordan, “You are going to jail today,” and started to take the battery out of her vehicle so she could not leave, the report said.
Bryan Burton’s statement to police has not been released. Bryan Burton, 41, was arrested on a felony charge of domestic battery due to the information police had gathered and the marks on Jordan Burton’s arm, the report said.
Jordan Burton, 32, denied hitting the juvenile. She was also arrested on a felony charge of domestic battery.
Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper filed a motion to have a special prosecutor review the incident and decide whether two file charges, citing a financial relationship as his conflict of interest. Burton, who owns a construction company, had been hired to do work at Cooper’s home.
Johnson Superior Court 2 Judge Cynthia Emkes first appointed Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams as the special prosecutor, and he launched his own investigation to gather more information.
Adams later removed himself from the case, citing a possible appearance of impropriety due to his ties to the county. His motion to recuse himself from the case cited a story published in the Daily Journal that explained his ties to the county and that the story could lead to the insinuation that any decision he made was tainted, he said at the time.
Emkes then appointed Askren to review the matter in early February.