Schuerman pleads guilty to misdemeanor charges after ten year legal battle

Wanda English Burnett - Editor

Batesville attorney, John Schuerman, pled guilty May 17 to three misdemeanor deception charges in Jefferson County Court, serve no jail time, and hopefully get his reputation restored, according to his attorney, Robert Hammerle of Indianapolis. In a press release sent by Hammerle to The Versailles Republican, Schuerman is quoted as saying, “As many of you know, my lawyer, Bob Hammerle, also grew up in Ripley County. Both of us learned long ago to appreciate the innate common sense of the good people of this area. As a result, we both hope that the people of this community will see this resolution for what it is, mainly a belated admission by those who initiated this prosecution that a monstrous mistake was made."

The initial grand jury indictment against Schuerman came down in 2001, and included ten felony counts that ranged from money laundering to forgery. Special Prosecutor Brad Landwerlen represented the state in that case.

The ensuing legal battle spans ten years, starting from the time Schuerman represented Garco Developments, Inc., Gregory Reeves, in June and July of 1997. “He was simply a lawyer representing this development group,” began Hammerle, who said that Schuerman has paid dearly for a little known statute that says it is a crime to receive money while in debt.

To explain further, Hammerle told The Versailles Republican that his client (Schuerman) had sent a letter to a homeowner requesting payment. This letter was a follow-up on a contract between Garco (Schuerman’s client) and the homeowner. The letter failed to note that Garco was indebted to subcontractors who were working on the home. That is the mistake that began Schuerman’s ten-year legal battle. Garco Developments eventually went bankrupt, according to Hammerle.

Hammerle says he has since learned that it is a crime for a person in the construction industry to receive a payment from a homeowner while they are indebted to subcontractors who are building the home. “I’ve been practicing law for over 30 years,” Hammerle noted, “and, I didn’t know about this statute.” He said he was stunned to learn about the statute. However, saying ignorance is no excuse for the law, his client has agreed he is guilty of sending three letters, and will plead to that effect.

On the subject of Milan businessman, Henry Rose, who had invested with Garco and lost money, Hammerle says Rose misled the grand jury with multiple misrepresentations. “Just one example is that he presented himself as being illiterate and said John knew it,” Hammerle stated. He said he deposed businessmen who had dealings with Rose who testified if Rose was illiterate, they were not aware of it. “I believe Rose was a savvy businessman who made a bad investment and wanted to get back at someone,” Hammerle said.

Hammerle noted that Schuerman was Rose’s attorney and drew up the contract between Rose and Garco. He said Rose was not pressured to sign and was even given the documents to take home for someone else to go over. “He was never victimized by John (Schuerman),” asserts Hammerle.
“From the beginning, Rose has been demanding restitution from my client,” stated Hammerle. He said they have agreed to a hearing, but maintains Schuerman owes nothing to the Milan businessman who operated a lucrative well-drilling business for years. “Somebody does owe something here,” Hammerle said, “Rose owes John an apology.”

Hammerle said he is glad a plea agreement could be reached and thanked Special Prosecutor Landwerlen for his work on the case. Hammerle noted, “You know what - I grew up in Ripley County and I know how important your reputation is. It’s time John gets his reputation back, he deserves that much.” He concluded, “He’s a decent man who does a great service for his clients and I’m glad he can put this behind him. Imagine the worst nightmare you’ve ever had - then imagine waking up to find out you’re actually living it. That’s what happened here.”

An excerpt from Schuerman’s press release sums it up, “While the last seven years have forced me to question the fairness of our system, I am more energized than ever to continue supporting and fighting for the rights of those wronged in this very community.”

He goes on to say, “I am so appreciative and thankful for those who have supported my family through this difficult and totally unnecessary ordeal. This speaks volumes to the power and strength of the community my family has been a part of for five generations.”

Schuerman still practices law from his Batesville office and is a former prosecutor for Ripley County.