Bill Nash sentenced to probation

Former Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in a plea bargain agreement in Bartholomew Superior Court 1, resulting in seven other charges being dismissed, including two felonies.

The dismissals were part of a plea agreement accepted Thursday by Special Judge Gary Smith allowing Nash, 58, to plead guilty to two Class B misdemeanors, disorderly conduct and harassment.

After accepting the plea bargain, Special Judge Gary Smith of Jennings County followed its terms, sentencing Nash to 180 days on each of the two misdemeanors and ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.

The plea agreement also stipulates Nash will serve the entire sentence on probation “on an informal basis,” the agreement states.

Nash’s defense attorney Mark Dove said the “informal” part of the plea means Nash will go through the probation intake process but will not have to report to probation officials as part of the sentence.

“In my mind, this case was nothing more than a heated argument between neighbors,” Dove said after the sentencing. He said there never would have been criminal charges filed except that Nash was a public official and what he described as a “running feud” between Nash and the Columbus Police Department. Nash was charged only because of his notoriety as prosecutor, Dove said.

Nash was the prosecutor who turned over evidence to a special prosecutor that resulted in criminal charges against two former Columbus police officers on accusations of ghost employment when they were accused of working on the clock for CPD and Columbus Regional Hospital security at the same time. Both of those cases resulted in plea bargains, with the charge of ghost employment downgraded to a misdemeanor, and the former officers receiving probation.

Charges formally dismissed as part of the Nash plea bargain were obstruction of justice as a Level 6 felony; intimidation as a Level 6 felony; intimidation as a Class B misdemeanor; interference with the reporting of a crime as a Class A misdemeanor, and three separate counts of harassment, all Class B misdemeanors.

Nash was also order to pay $185 in court costs, $50 for his initial probation fee, administrative costs of $50 and monthly probation fees of $20. In addition, he was ordered to pay a $200 fine.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the charges relate to an incident last May when Nash angrily approached his neighbor, Scott Salazar-Stuck, to tell him his dogs were dangerous, and if Salazar-Stuck didn’t keep the canines on a leash, he’d “better get a lawyer.” Salazar-Stuck claimed Nash had earlier fired a BB gun toward his house.

Some time after Nash left, Salazar-Stuck found a small animal collar in his own yard with Nash’s phone number on it that he showed to him, the court document states.

When Salazar-Stuck asked why the collar was on his property, Nash said he didn’t know and insisted that his neighbor give him back the collar, the affidavit states. When Salazar-Stuck asked Nash if they could discuss the matter like adults, the affidavit indicates Nash’s rhetoric became increasingly angry. according to court documents.

“You think a BB gun is dangerous! Your dogs are dangerous! A BB gun is not going to kill you! You have kids playing with the dogs! You think a BB gun can kill you! I can kill you! I will kill you and Indiana state law says I can kill you! Dude, you came into my yard screamed at me about shooting a BB gun! You put up a fence! Throw and go, the last time I checked I am still the chief law enforcement officer until Dec. 31 so go ahead and call the cops! Good luck with that! Throw me my thing!,” according to the affidavit.

Salazar-Stuck said he took Nash’s threat seriously, telling officers that his wife, Monica, had video recorded some of the confrontation on her cell phone with everything after “Indiana law says I can kill you,” recorded, according to the police report.

The couple told Indiana State Police investigators they were “very concerned” for their safety due to Nash’s “erratic behavior,” as well as his position and power as prosecutor and chief law enforcement officer, the court document states. They also said they believed Nash “can carry out his threats to kill Mr. Stuck,” the affidavit states.

Terms of the probation outlined by Smith called for Nash to remove a flag barrier from the rear of his residence, and refrain from setting up other barriers for the next year. He was also ordered to have no contact with Scott or Monica Salazar-Stuck for the duration of the suspended sentence.

Since Nash served more than 20 years as prosecutor, all Bartholomew County judicial officials recused themselves from the case. Franklin Arkenberg of Ripley County served as special prosecutor, while Dove represented Nash.

Nash was first elected Bartholomew County Prosecutor in 2002. Last year, he challenged State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, in the GOP primary for the District 59 seat. Lauer received 68% of the vote in Bartholomew County, while Nash received 32%.

Another Republican, Lindsey Holden-Kay, defeated Joshua Scherschel in the 2022 GOP primary. Holden-Kay succeeded Nash at the beginning of 2023.