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Thursday, July 04, 2019 1:00 am

Access to molest case files disputed

Public defender's daughter involved

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A special judge appointed to handle a criminal case against the daughter of Allen County's top public defender could decide in September whether to restrict access to court filings.

Eleanor K. Kraus, 19, had been charged with three counts of child molesting for having sex with a 13-year-old boy last year, according to court documents. She has agreed to plead guilty to three lesser charges, and prosecutors will dismiss two of those if she adheres to rules requiring a psychological evaluation and drug and alcohol testing.

The child molesting charges also would be dismissed, according to documents detailing a four-year, deferred sentencing agreement prohibiting Kraus from contacting the boy and working or volunteering with organizations with programs or services for people younger than 18.

She is the daughter of interim Chief Public Defender Michelle Kraus. Her father, Anthony Kraus, also is a lawyer who handles criminal defense and family law cases.

The boy and Eleanor Kraus, then 18, were having sex in February 2018 when the boy's mother walked in on them, a probable cause affidavit said. He told investigators they had sex four times.

“(Eleanor Kraus) instructed the victim not to tell anyone because she would get into trouble,” Detective Justin Naish of the Allen County Sheriff's Department wrote in the affidavit.

A petition to prohibit access filed May 30 asks Adams Circuit Court Judge Chad Kukelhan to restrict access to filings, stating Eleanor Kraus has “been denied employment opportunities” and “suffered the loss of housing” since she was arrested last year.

Kukelhan was appointed by the state Supreme Court in August to hear the case in Allen Superior Court after Judge Fran Gull recused herself. A hearing on the request is scheduled Sept. 9.

Indiana court rules allow a judge “in extraordinary circumstances” to seal records that otherwise would be public. The person making the request must file paperwork showing the public interest will be “substantially served” by prohibiting access, “access or dissemination of the court record will create a significant risk of substantial harm to the requestor” and “a substantial prejudicial effect to ongoing proceedings cannot be avoided without prohibiting public access.”

Eleanor Kraus argues in a two-page petition filed by defense attorney Stanley Campbell she will be harmed. Already, the document said, her booking photo has appeared on social media and job opportunities have been lost.

“I will continue to suffer a significant risk of substantial harm (employment and housing) and I will continue to be subject to social media accounts if there is continued public access to the court record,” according to the petition.

Huntington County Prosecutor Amy Richison, named special prosecutor in the case, said in an email she does not oppose the request but declined to comment further.

Michelle Kraus and Campbell did not return messages from The Journal Gazette, as of late Wednesday afternoon.

The younger Kraus was charged July 26, 2018, with two Level 3 felony child molesting charges, each punishable by up to 16 years in prison. A third molesting charge, a Level 4 felony, carried a penalty of up to 12 years in prison.

She agreed to plead guilty to two counts of providing obscene matter and performances before minors – both Level 6 felonies with potential 21/2-year prison sentences – and misdemeanor possession of alcohol by a minor.

The misdemeanor could be expunged after 2024, court documents state, and the plea agreement calls for no “additional sentence” for the minor in possession charge if she complies with the deferred sentencing agreement.

The boy was made aware of the plea agreement and what it includes, according to the documents.

mleblanc@jg.net