Robert Battle, an incumbent East Chicago, Indiana Democratic Councilman who won his unopposed November reelection bid by obtaining just 308 votes, was sworn into office at the Porter County Jail on Friday where he faces murder and drug charges.
Battle was taken into custody on Nov. 17.
According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, Lake County elections director Michelle Fajman has received a certified document noting that Battle was sworn in, reportedly by a fellow inmate who is also a notary public. The deadline by which newly-elected officials in the county are required to complete their swearing in ceremonies or vacate the seat in question is Jan. 30.
County officials say there is no way to prevent Battle from being sworn into office as Indiana state law allows him to retain his council seat, along with its $42,365 annual salary, until he resigns or is found guilty of the charges.
Members of East Chicago’s City Council also receive insurance and pension benefits worth over $12,000.
Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds told The Chicago Tribune, “There is no reason for me to deny it legally.”
Battle is accused of killing Reimundo Camarillo Jr. on Oct. 12 and also faces marijuana and cocaine charges. He maintains that he shot Camarillo in self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.
The Times of Northwest Indiana pointed out that Battle’s attorney Walter Alvarez claims that Camarillo had pulled a knife on Battle prior to the shooting.
The drug charges stem from a different arrest during a traffic stop on Sept. 23.
Battle is set to stand trial in August.
“It’s just a sad situation all the way around, especially for the family of the deceased,” said Fifth District Councilman Rosendo Cuevas, commenting on the death of Reimundo Camarillo Jr.