By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Six jury members and two alternates were selected Tuesday, July 14, in the first day of what is expected to be a four-day trial in a lawsuit involving a shooting death that occurred in 2014.
Plaintiffs Atta and Larry Helman are suing Barnett’s Bail Bonds, three bail recovery agents and an insurance agency for damages resulting from Gary Helman’s death. Gary, Atta’s son and Larry’s twin brother, was shot and killed by the bail recovery agents in a gunfight on Aug. 25, 2014.
The defendants in the case include Barnett’s Bail Bonds, the bail bonds company Atta obtained a bail bond from to secure Gary Helman’s release from jail in 2013; Tadd Martin, Michael Thomas, and Daniel Foster, the three bail recovery agents who went to the Helman residence in 2014 to retrieve Gary Helman; and Lexington National Insurance Corporation, who is authorized to serve as a surety on bail bonds.
In June 2017, The Papers Inc. and Stacey Staley, a former employee of The Papers, were dismissed as defendants in the case. Staley was in contact with the bail recovery agents to assist in apprehending Gary.
According to court documents, on Nov. 25, 2013, Gary was arrested in two unrelated cases — one for three felonies and the other for a misdemeanor. His bond was set at $25,000 total for both cases.
On Nov. 27, 2013, Atta obtained a bail bond through Barnett’s Bail Bonds to secure Gary’s release from jail. Atta paid Barnett’s Bail Bonds a $2,500 premium and Gary was released from jail. However, Gary later failed to appear in court for the outstanding charges; warrants were issued for his arrest in both cases in May and July 2014.
In early 2014, Barnett’s Bail Bonds retained Tadd Martin to apprehend Gary on his outstanding warrants. Martin later contacted then-reporter Stacey Staley to solicit her assistance in apprehending Gary. In late July 2014, Staley contacted Gary to set up an interview.
Prior to her interview with Gary on Aug. 25, 2014, Staley and Martin contacted each other several times between July and August 2014 with information about Gary and his whereabouts within a Cromwell residence owned by Atta Helman.
After Staley concluded her interview with Gary, the three bail recovery agents approached the residence where a gunfight ensued and led to Gary’s death as well as serious injuries to Larry and Martin.
Atta and Larry are seeking compensatory damages due to the incident. As a result of the gunshot wounds Larry sustained, he incurred medical expenses totaling $69,639.68. Atta and Larry also both sought counseling therapy due to the incident and incurred expenses totaling $1,250.
The first phase of the trial will focus on whether or not facts show the defendants in the case committed negligence, battery, trespass, intimidation, and residential entry toward the Helmans and their property. If the plaintiffs are able to show wrongful acts were committed, the second phase of the trial will focus on determining the Helmans’ compensatory damages.
Representing the Helmans in the case are Bradley Colborn and Michael Misch, South Bend. Barnett’s Bail Bonds and Myra Barnett are represented by Jay Rigdon, Warsaw. Lexington National Insurance Corporation is represented by Angela Hall and Jason Rauch, Indianapolis. Tadd Martin and Daniel Foster are representing themselves in this case. Michael Thomas did not appear for the jury trial.
To practice social distancing, potential jurors were brought over from the Kosciusko County Purdue Extension office to the Kosciusko County Circuit Courtroom. The courtroom and office were connected via video conferencing during the selection process. All potential jurors also wore masks and were seated with one empty chair between people.
During voir dire, where potential jurors are asked questions by the judge and lawyer, Colborn asked how they would feel about seeing graphic evidence and if they would take issue with compensating anybody financially, regardless of the amount of money.
Rigdon focused on asking potential jurors if they have ever posted a bond before and if they understand the bail bonds process, while Hall asked if any of them ever had negative experiences with law enforcement or with bail bonds agencies. Foster did not ask the jurors any questions, but Martin briefly gave a statement and asked jurors to “consider the facts for what they are.”
A full jury was selected at approximately 2:20 p.m. today. Four women and two men are on the jury. The alternates are two men.
In his opening statement to the court, Colborn elaborated on the details of the case, focusing on each complaint the Helmans have against the defendants.
“Bail bondsmen have no power to hurt or harm any third-parties,” said Colborn. “Larry Helman was trying to light a cigarette on his back porch when he was shot. An elderly woman watched her twin sons get shot by people she doesn’t know. Neither one of them (Atta and Larry) are fugitives in this incident. This is not about Gary or what happened to him. We’re here to talk about what did happen to Atta and Larry and how that was wrong.”
Colborn also said the defendants would attempt to argue for self-defense.
“You’re not entitled to self-defense when committing criminal acts,” said Colborn. “That doesn’t apply to initial instigators. We’re going to ask you to do whatever you can to fix the things that happened to them that no one can actually fix.”
On behalf of Barnett’s Bail Bonds, Rigdon argued in his opening statement that Colborn left out facts in his argument, stating that Gary Helman signed bond paperwork that involves agreeing to a bail company coming to retrieve someone if they fail to appear in court.
Foster delivered a brief opening statement and thanked the jury. Martin also delivered an opening statement, giving background about himself.
To end court proceedings for the day, Hausch gave an opening argument for Lexington National Insurance Corporation.
“This case begins and ends with Gary Helman,” said Hausch. “The plaintiffs enabled and encouraged Gary. Mrs. Helman didn’t encourage Gary to turn himself in.”
Hausch focused on four categories of what the corporation is using as evidence, including the argument that the insurance corporation had nothing to do with the shooting incident and that Martin lawfully defended himself.
“This was a months-long investigation to figure out the best and safest way to bring Gary in,” said Hausch. “They didn’t send Gary out. They brought Larry in. It’s plain and simple: Lexington had nothing to do with the agents in this case.”
The trial will continue Wednesday, July 15, in Kosciusko Circuit Court at 8:30 a.m.