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Victim advocate: No jail time for prosecutor sends troubling message

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — After a plea deal on domestic violence charges resulted in no jail time for the Johnson County prosecutor, an advocate for abuse victims in the county says she’s concerned about what message that sends.

“It makes it look like the crime is not taken as seriously as it deserves to be,” said Melanie Rasmussen, the legal advocacy director for Turning Point, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence in Johnson County.

State law requires Bradley Cooper to be removed from office.

Cooper will serve 540 days probation after his guilty plea for three felonies and a misdemeanor. Court documents state he will also pay a $50 fine as a domestic violence fee. He is also supposed to get treatment. According to court documents, Cooper hit his fiancee and held her against her will in his home last month. The victim escaped and called 911 at a neighbor’s house.

Court documents show Cooper also pretended to be the victim in text messages he sent to someone else.

In all, he pleaded guilty to three felonies and to one misdemeanor.

The charges Cooper faced would typically yield a one-year prison sentence but could result is as much as three years in prison, according to Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said domestic violence numbers in Johnson County mirror national numbers, meaning one in three women are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. For men, it’s one in four. 

The issue is so significant in the county that a domestic violence task force was created — by Cooper during his time as prosecutor, according to the office’s website. 

Rasmussen attends meetings on behalf of Turning Point and said the task force’s goal is to break the cycle of domestic violence in the county, giving law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office and nonprofits the opportunity to work in collaboration.

“It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to see the good that is coming out of that task force and utilize it in his own life,” she said. 

Cooper wasn’t very involved in the meetings, according to Rasmussen, even though he established the task force. In fact, she said they have a lot of work ahead of them for 2019. 

On Monday, it remained unclear when Cooper would step down as the Johnson County prosecutor. His sentencing is scheduled for July. 

When he does leave his post, the chief deputy prosecutor will serve as the interim replacement until the Johnson County Republican Party selects a person to serve the remainder of Cooper’s term, which began after his 2018 re-election. He ran unopposed.

Rasmussen said she is not concerned about how domestic violence cases will be handled as Cooper remains in office. A domestic violence prosecutor in the county plays a large role in the selection and prosecution of cases. 

The prosecutor’s office handled about 100 cases involving domestic violence from January 2018 to January 2019, the Johnson County Clerk’s Office said.

News 8 on Monday could not confirm the ramifications of Cooper’s guilty plea on pending or closed cases involving domestic violence in the county during Cooper’s time in the prosecutor’s office.