Vauhxx Booker case resolved through restorative justice, a 1st in Indiana criminal cases

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For the first time in Indiana’s criminal case history, a criminal case was resolved through restorative justice, a process similar to mediation.

Vauhxx Booker had originally claimed he was the victim of hate crime back in July 2020. Now, all charges against all parties in the case have been dropped, I-Team 8 has found.

“It’s kind of a grown-up way of just handling a case and taking it out of the court system,” said Lance Hamner, the judge on Booker’s case.

Hamner says, as a judge, this was the first time he’s seen a criminal case be resolved through restorative justice.

In August 2021, a special prosecutor filed criminal charges against Booker, an African-American man from Bloomington who says he was the victim of a hate crime on the Fourth of July in 2020.

Booker claims a group of people threatened him at Lake Monroe near Bloomington. Booker was accused of battery and trespassing. Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox were previously charged with assaulting Booker. They claimed he instigated the incident.

Hamner said the attorneys “explained it to me as a kind of a new and innovative way to resolve cases that achieve all the goals of the criminal justice system, but it doesn’t have to go through the full judicial process.”

Booker had initially declined to enter into the restorative justice process, but court records show he had recently decided to re-enter the process.

“When people start to get mad, their reasoning starts to go down. That’s the source of a lot of conflict. After it’s all had a chance to cool down and people had a chance to think about it, reasoning starts to go back up, and that’s when your restorative justice can kick in because then people can start thinking with their minds instead of with their emotions,” Hamner said.

The Center for Community Justice facilitated the restorative justice in Booker’s case. They provided a statement to I-Team 8 explaining the process.

“Staff and volunteers at CCJ facilitate restorative processes that bring victims and offenders together to talk about the impact of the crime and create a plan for addressing the harm…This work helps people get answers to lingering questions, find closure, offer and receive acknowledgement and apology, repair broken relationships, and overcome obstacles preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.”

Center for Community Justice

Hamner says this process is something that saves a lot of expenses and resources in the justice system. “I was really impressed, and, in fact, it’s something that I want to look into. I’m in the process of running for prosecutor and if I win that, that’s something I want to look into even more.”

I-Team reached out to Booker for comment on the case and to ask why he decided to re-enter the restorative justice process. Booker declined an interview, explaining he wanted to wait until he has something “more substantial to provide.”

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