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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, November 08, 2018 1:00 am

Woman settles harassment suit against ex-judge

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Huntington County woman has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit accusing a former judge of harassing her.

Heather Malone was the county's chief probation officer and alleged Huntington Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hakes sent her unwanted messages and emails from 2015 to 2017. Hakes, who retired last year, tracked her activity on social media, reacted negatively to her dating another man and threatened to fire her if she accused him of sexual harassment, the lawsuit said.

It was filed in state court in December 2017 and later was moved to U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, where Malone sought unspecified damages. She and Hakes agreed to settle the lawsuit last month, according to court documents.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. “A fair resolution was reached,” a court-appointed mediator wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to federal Magistrate Paul R. Cherry.

Documents filed Oct. 30 say the agreement is tentative until it is approved by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Included in the lawsuit were multiple exchanges between Malone and Hakes through Facebook and email. There also were unreturned messages from Hakes with references to drinking alcohol or providing alcohol for Malone.

The complaint included an emailed photo of Hakes to Malone with the message, “Come on....admit it, you miss me?”

Hakes tried unsuccessfully last year to keep secret portions of the documents, arguing in court they contain “communications relating to court business.” Cherry rejected most of the request but agreed to seal portions of two documents that included employment information and the email addresses of court employees.

The former judge denied allegations from Malone in a 12-page response filed Jan. 31.