Number of criminal indictments to break Daviess County record

Bruce Kuegel

Although the total isn't final yet, Daviess County Commonwealth's Attorney Bruce Kuegel said the number of criminal indictments issued this year will reach or exceed 1,400, marking another year where the number of indictments has been larger than the previous year.

But Kuegel said while there is an increase in indictments over 2018, it's not as large an increase compared to previous years.

There had been 1,394 indictments issued as of Monday, although more numbers are being added through the Rocket Docket program. Rocket Docket is where a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a felony in the early stages of the case, skipping the grand jury.

"By the time we get the rocket docket (cases) in, our numbers are going to be a little higher" than last year, Kuegel said. But the increase in criminal indictments this year is not huge.

"We aren't going to have the 75 to 100 (indictment) jump" the county has seen in previous years, Kuegel said. "Have we hit a plateau? I hope. I'd like to see the numbers going the opposite way next year."

In previous years, "it was not unusual to have a 150 to 200 increase" in indictments over the year before, Kuegel said. The majority of indictments are either drug charges, or are at least drug-related, Kuegel said.

"If you look at the charges that aren't necessarily drugs, but are able to talk to the investigating officers, you'll find the burglaries and thefts are driven by (perpetrator's) ... addiction."

Drug charges and offenses related to drugs "are just exploding," Kuegel said.

Cases handled through Rocket Docket move quickly through the court process, so a defendant can be sent to substance abuse treatment quickly.

"It's working," Kuegel said. "We are getting people into rehab programs a whole lot quicker." Moving people to treatment through Rocket Docket helps reduce the number of people on drug charges in jail waiting for their cases to be resolved, Kuegel said.

"It reduces the cost" to the county, Kuegel said.

While the overall number of indictments increased only slightly this year compared to 2018, "unfortunately, our homicide numbers are certainly not going down," Kuegel said.

"There are five homicide incidents," with eight victims, this year, Kuegel said. In at least some of this year's homicides, there is a suspected connection to drug activity, Kuegel said.

While the number of indictments has increased only slightly over 2018, Kuegel said 1,400 indictments is still a large number compared to what the county previously experienced.

"We were at 650 (indictments) when I started in 2008," Kuegel said, adding that 1,400 indictments "is a tremendous number of cases for a county the size of Daviess."

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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