Ex-Indiana child welfare office director pleading guilty to lying in sex exploitation case


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NEW CASTLE, Indiana — The former director of a central Indiana child welfare office is pleading guilty to charges that he lied to a federal grand jury investigating a high school counselor who's charged with sexually exploiting students.

The plea agreement filed last week for 58-year-old Michael Fleming calls for him to plead guilty to one count of lying under oath, with federal prosecutors dropping another count.

Fleming, the former director of the Indiana Department of Child Services' New Castle office, was charged in March with telling the grand jury that he'd never heard complaints of alleged misconduct by Darrell Hughes, a New Castle school counselor charged with sexually exploiting male students.

Prosecutors will recommend Fleming be given a prison term of 10-16 months, The Star Press reported (http://tspne.ws/1s2SP9r ). His sentencing hearing hasn't yet been scheduled.

A telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment from Fleming's defense attorney, Dennis Zahn, wasn't immediately returned Monday.

Fleming was fired by the state agency in February for allegedly urging a subordinate to make false statements in the Hughes investigation, prosecutors said. Fleming also resigned from his seat on the New Castle Community School Board a few days after his indictment was announced.

Hughes, a counselor at an alternative school operated by the New Castle school district, was charged in February with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and attempted exploitation of a child. That case involves five teenage boys he came into contact with through his work as a counselor at the school in the city about 40 miles east of Indianapolis.

Hughes is charged with giving the boys marijuana and alcohol and buying them clothing and other items. He's also accused of taking videos of the boys showering at his home.

Hughes has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

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