Probable cause hearing denied for Hagan

Isaiah Hagan

A probable cause hearing was denied for the man accused in the slaying of Halee Rathgeber, but the state has been ordered to turn over evidence in relation to the case.

Isaiah Hagan, 22, of Evansville, was arrested earlier this year in connection to Rathgeber's death after she was found shot at the Alcoa Soccer fields in Newburgh. After originally being arrested on charges of murder, murder while attempting to commit robbery, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice, Hagan's charges of murder were upgraded to include a possible sentence of life without parole.

In a hearing on Aug. 2, Hagan's attorney Mark Phillips argued that the case be granted a probable cause hearing in order to discuss discrepancies in the probable cause affidavit and the evidence supplied subsequent his appointment as Hagan's attorney. Phillips told Warrick County Circuit Court Judge Greg Granger that because of the concern of inaccuracies, there should be a hearing to challenge the probable cause.

"The court may, based wholly on what was given -- and the police department and the prosecutor have complete and total discretion as to what you're told -- you make a probable cause determination based only on that," Phillips said.

However, Warrick County Prosecutor Mike Perry objected to the evidence prepared by Phillips to be used in the hearing. He said the hearing was meant to be procedural and not to include evidence.

Despite back and forth between both parties and the judge, Granger denied the probable cause hearing, but allowed Phillips to provide his evidence to offer proof. Phillips detailed several points where his office felt the probable cause may have been inaccurate or misleading based on evidence provided to him pertaining to the case which he said was made available to police and the prosecution prior to the composition of the probable cause affidavit.

Among the evidence Phillips provided was cellphone data that Phillips said was provided to law enforcement officials several days prior to the probable cause affidavit. The information showed that Hagan and Rathgeber parted ways at the soccer fields and were later observed traveling toward each other in separate vehicles. The probable cause affidavit only states that cellphone data

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revealed that Hagan and Rathgeber had traveled together to the soccer fields.

In addition, Phillips asserted that interviews about the Hagan families 9 mm Hi-Point handgun was misconstrued. The probably cause affidavit states that an interview with Hagan's parents resulted in the information that the families handgun was missing. However, Phillips said that the full interview had revealed that the handgun had been missing for quite some time, since before the family relocated.

The probable cause affidavit said an officer asked Hagan, after he had already asked for an attorney, if the gun was anywhere that a child or someone would possibly find it and someone else could get hurt. According to the affidavit, Hagan told the officer that it was "in a safe location and that he could take me to the gun once he spoke to his attorney."

However, according to Phillips, Hagan actually told the officer, "if my parents misplaced or didn't have possession of the gun, they wouldn't leave it somewhere where a child could get access to it or get hurt."

Phillips also told the court that the coroner's report didn't support the claim that the wound that killed Rathgeber was made by a 9 mm handgun and there was no casings, projectiles or possible weapons collected into evidence.

Furthermore, Phillips told the court that another individual had been considered as a suspect, but no information was provided to the court or his office other than in a short reference of only a few sentences. In addition, he told the court that there was no DNA evidence or fingerprint evidence to tie Hagan to the crime.

Phillips told Granger that if this information had been included in the report, there may not have even been a case.

"We believe the probable cause affidavit to be incomplete, inaccurate or misleading," he said. "For all those reasons, and I'm sure there's more because we don't have everything, we believe that the court, if it were to receive that evidence or to reevaluate the probable cause determination...based on accurate, complete and non-misleading information, would make a different determination."

However, Perry continued to assert that the information provided in the original probable cause affidavit was correct.

"There is nothing in this affidavit of probable cause that I, as an elected prosecutor, believe is misleading or false," Perry said.

While his decision to deny the opportunity to hold a hearing to challenge the probable cause of the case was already made, Granger said he would allow Phillips to make a motion to appeal the decision with the Indiana Court of Appeals. Perry said his office would object to the motion.

On Tuesday, Granger granted a motion made by Phillips to compel the prosecutor's office to turn over evidence relating to the case. The office will be required to compile and turn over all information gathered as part of the investigation by Aug. 18.

Phillips read to the court several emails discussing evidence, but said he was never given the actual evidence to review. He also noted that he was allowed to see a video involving a potential suspect, but the video was never made a part of the evidence in the case.

Perry contended that the information was not included as it wasn't relevant to the case against Hagan. However, Phillips told the court that the information could include evidence that could prove Hagan's innocence and was wrongly omitted.

"All of that is relevant for us to see," he said. "When the representation is that 'I've seen it, but I don't know where it is,' that's a real concern because then that suggests that somebody decided it wasn't relevant and therefore got rid of it. Not tampering with evidence got rid of it, they just make a determination to get rid of it. That's not their job."

Phillips said if there is information that is different than what has been represented, it's important to the case. He said his complaint isn't with the prosecutor's office, but rather the third party agencies gathering the information. However, he said it is the job of the prosecutor's office to compile that information.

"The constitution says that Mr. Hagan has the right to see, hear, face, confront and cross-examine his accuser," Phillips said. "You advise people of that every day. It's not waiveable, it's not delegable, and the only entity that has the duty to provide that is the prosecutor."

The back and forth began with a motion from Phillips to suppress statements from Hagan used in the case alleging that investigators did not inform Hagan of his constitutional rights, including his right to remain silent and speak with a lawyer before questioning.

A hearing to discuss the motion to suppress has been set for Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 2 p.m.

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