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Restraining order forbids man from harassing county attorney

By BRYAN CORBIN Courier & Press staff writer (812) 464-7449 or corbinb@courierpress.com

April 30, 2005 - David A. Kifer is known at Evansville's Civic Center for his long-winded harangues against county officials, but his next one could land him in jail.

After a court hearing Friday about Kifer's behavior, a judge signed a workplace-violence protective order forbidding Kifer from harassing, threatening or stalking County Attorney Ted Ziemer. If Kifer violates the order, Kifer could be arrested and charged with invasion of privacy.

Although he is not a lawyer, Kifer tried to represent himself in Vanderburgh Superior Court. Repeatedly, he was denied in his attempts to broaden the focus of the protective-order hearing into unrelated issues. At least 34 times in a three-hour hearing, plaintiff's attorney Chad Sullivan objected to Kifer's questions to witnesses.

Judge Mary Margaret Lloyd sustained the objections, forcing Kifer to move on. Kifer had subpoenaed Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth and County Commissioners Suzanne Crouch and Cheryl Musgrave. But Kifer didn't get to question them long, before he launched into a tirade and the judge cut him off.

Kifer, 44, chafed at being restricted by rules of evidence.

"Your honor, there's nothing I can say here because my tongue is tied, and not through my own volition," Kifer complained.

Kifer was a plaintiff in a 1979 jail-overcrowding lawsuit filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union against Vanderburgh County. To settle the lawsuit, the county is building a $37 million jail, scheduled to open this year. But Kifer opposed the settlement and has feuded with the ICLU ever since. At issue Friday was Kifer's berating of commissioners at two February meetings and his haranguing of Ziemer at Ziemer's law office. At one meeting, Kifer was escorted out by the sheriff.

Ziemer, who represents the commissioners, sought a workplace protective order against Kifer for himself and his law firm. Ziemer testified that Kifer left a voice mail Feb. 27 that Ziemer found threatening: "I really hope you have a rotten day, sir. But I'll see you soon enough anyway, and I'm sure it will be when you do," Kifer said in the message, according to Ziemer. It so unnerved Ziemer that he locked the office doors, Ziemer said.

Another attorney at the firm, Keith Vonderahe, testified about times Kifer showed up at the law office without an appointment and frightened the staff. Kifer was told to leave and not return.

"As a whole, when you have someone being intrusive and acting the way he has, the whole totality of his behavior is threatening," Vonderahe said. Vonderahe said when he told Kiefer female employees were uncomfortable around him, Kifer scoffed, "Let the record reflect I've never been a rapist." Sheriff Ellsworth testified that he considers Kifer a threat. "I think you're delusional and I think you're paranoid, and I consider you a threat to Mr. Ziemer and everybody in that (commissioners') meeting," Ellsworth told Kifer from the witness stand.

After admonishing Kifer not to launch into diatribes about the ICLU, the judge granted Ziemer a protective order. For the next three years, Kifer is banned from contacting Ziemer or visiting his office, and Kifer can't attend commissioners' meetings when Ziemer is present. Ignoring the order could get Kifer arrested. Kifer left the courtroom hurriedly. Ziemer said afterward that he feels sorry for Kifer.

"I just think he is of a mind to think he is right and everybody else is wrong," Ziemer said. "He could take any action against the people he thinks aren't on his side."

 

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