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Jessie Laudig

Other Indiana exonerations
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On March 22, 2017, 37-year-old Jessie Laudig was charged in Marion County, Indiana, with failing to register as a sex offender.

In October 2018, Laudig went to trial in Marion County Superior Court and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. The prosecution presented evidence that Laudig had been living in a tent city in an area of Indianapolis, Indiana known as “the Jungle.”

On August 18, 2016, Laudig had signed a sex offender registration form with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office saying that his address was: “KOWEBA ST/JUNGLE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PARKING LOT AT THE END RED/GRAY TENT INDIANAPOLIS, IN.”

For several weeks thereafter, about every seven days, Laudig signed a form saying he still lived at that address.

On September 21, 2016, he signed a change of address form saying that he was living in an alley near a particular intersection. On September 29, 2016, he signed another change form saying he was again living in the Jungle: 98 South Koweba/the Jungle Right side of parking lot.”

He filled out forms every seven days thereafter indicating he was still at that address. On December 7, 2016, he submitted another change form saying he had moved from a red and black tent to a blue tent with a silver tarp. He continued reporting that address every seven days until—after signing a form on January 12, 2017—he did not register again. The prosecution alleged that he had violated the sex offender registration law by not registering on January 20, 2017.

Marion County Sheriff’s deputy Christopher Jaussaud testified that he was assigned to investigate Laudig’s duty to register after Laudig did not register after January 12, 2017. He said he did not look for Laudig at the address Laudig had provided because there was “not enough time” and it was “too big of an area.”

Jaussaud said he was familiar with the Jungle, describing it as a “stretch of trees” east and west of Koweba Street near East Washington Street and railroad tracks. He knew it as a “homeless camp.”

The prosecution argued that Laudig was required to register every seven days. The defense argued that Laudig needed only to register annually and therefore was not required to register again until January 2018 as long as he continued to live in the Jungle.

On October 27, 2018, the judge convicted Laudig of failing to register as a sex offender. Laudig was sentenced to four years in prison, but the sentence was suspended. He was placed on probation for three years.

Subsequently, Laudig was found guilty of violating probation and spent 250 days in jail.

On August 31, 2018, the Court of Appeals of Indiana set aside the conviction. The ruling turned on whether Laudig’s tent in the Jungle was a “principal” residence or a “temporary” residence.

The registration statute required registration annually for a principal residence. Change forms were required if the person changed location. If a sex offender did not have a principal residence, registration was required once every seven days.

The appeals court noted that the term “principal” residence was not defined in the statute. “We must interpret ambiguous statutes in the defendant’s favor as far as the language can reasonably support,” the court declared.

“Although Laudig was ‘homeless’ in one sense, the uncontroverted evidence indicates that he was not transient during the pertinent period of time and could be located in the Jungle…the statutory framework permits a reasonable reading that Laudig identified his principal residence when he provided the address for the Jungle and described his tent therein,” the court ruled.

“Moreover, as law enforcement did not go look for Laudig, there is no indication that Laudig was not actually living at the identification location,” the court said. The court concluded there was insufficient evidence that Laudig had violated the registration statute.

In July 2020, Laudig filed a claim for compensation from the state of Indiana. To obtain compensation in Indiana, a claimant must show that their conviction was reversed and set aside and demonstrate actual innocence. On March 4, 2022, the Indiana Criminal Justice institute, which decides compensation claims, declared Laudig met the qualifications of the statute and awarded him $34,521.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/28/2022
Last Updated: 6/28/2022
State:Indiana
County:Marion
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2017
Convicted:2018
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:8 months and 10 days
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:36
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No