Indiana judge admonishes abducted teens’ sister

Rick Callahan
Associated Press

Indianapolis — The sister of two Indianapolis teenagers kidnapped and held for ransom after she allegedly stole money and drugs from her ex-boyfriend was admonished by a judge Monday after she used the derogatory term “public pretender” in referring to a court-appointed attorney.

Marion Superior Judge Shatrese Flowers had asked Whitney Blackwell, 27, during her initial hearing on one count of conspiracy to deal cocaine if she could afford to hire her own attorney or if she needed a public defender. When Blackwell said twice that she needs “a public pretender” Flowers became irritated and chastised her for using that term.

After Blackwell finally told Flowers she could not afford to pay for an attorney, the judge assigned her a public defender.

Defendants assigned public defenders sometimes use the “public pretender” term, but rarely in court, said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.

“It’s derogatory statement about somebody’s opinion that public defenders aren’t real lawyers. It’s an obvious insult,” he said.

Flowers entered a not guilty plea for Blackwell and ordered her to remain jailed on a $250,000 surety bond and $25,000 cash bond, pending a tentative July 22 trial date.

The cocaine-dealing conspiracy charge Blackwell faces stems from her alleged theft of cash and drugs in Detroit, Marion County Prosecutor’s office spokesman A.J. Deer said.

Federal prosecutors charged Blackwell’s ex-boyfriend, John Thomas, and five other people last week with conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the March 2 abduction of Blackwell’s 16-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister.

Prosecutors allege the six defendants abducted Aaron and Emma Blackwell from their Indianapolis home at gunpoint and took them to Detroit in retaliation for Blackwell’s theft of $120,000, 4,000 OxyContin pills and a kilogram of cocaine from Thomas, who authorities allege is a drug dealer.

Detroit police freed the boy, and the girl was freed by her alleged abductors hours after her abduction.

Blackwell has said she only took $43,000, and did so because Thomas was abusive and she needed the money to get herself and her 6-year-old son away from him.

But a probable cause affidavit filed with the cocaine-dealing charge states her mother told police Blackwell claimed to have stolen $250,000 along with a kilogram of cocaine and that she believed her daughter “had little concern” for her kidnapped siblings’ safety.

A federal affidavit says the children’s abductors called the teens’ family at least eight times demanding that they produce the missing money. In one call, they threatened to “chop the kids’ fingers off” if the money was not delivered.