The rise and fall of former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel (2024)

The list of Hoosier politicos with ties to former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel spreads deep and wide.

The past Republican chair for both Clark County – which sits across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky – and the 9th Congressional District has been a sort of gatekeeper for southern Indiana political hopefuls over the last decade, but his influence extends across the state.

Among his notable relationships, Noel held close ties to former Gov. Mike Pence, who appointed him to serve on the now-defunct Homeland Security Foundation. On a personal invitation from Pence, he’d eventually attend former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.

As a member of the Indiana State Republican Party Committee, Noel was among those tasked with selecting a gubernatorial candidate to replace the future vice president on the ballot in 2016. He then went on to lead the campaign for the party’s pick – current Gov. Eric Holcomb – and was appointed to the governor’s transition team after Holcomb’s victory. In 2020, Noel was tapped again to serve as chairman of Holcomb’s reelection bid, which resulted in a second gubernatorial term.

Entangled with Noel, as well, are former U.S. Reps. Mike Sodrel and Trey Hollingsworth, plus dozens of state lawmakers and other elected officials. But last November, those prominent connections fell to the wayside when a corruption and fraud investigation led by the Indiana State Police – centered on Noel – came to a head.

To date, he faces more than two dozen felony charges – six more were filed Monday morning – including theft, ghost employment, official misconduct and tax evasion involving more than $4 million in questionable spending.

Noel’s wife, Misty, and their daughter, Kasey, have also been charged. All have pleaded not guilty.

Investigators believe the family spent millions of taxpayer dollars on cars, planes, vacations, clothing and other luxury purchases. More than $50,000 was supposedly spent on cigars alone, as well as $183,000 on custom suits.

At least 40 cars have been confiscated by law enforcement, including a bevy of classics, such as two 1970 Plymouth Superbirds, a 1959 Corvette and 1966 and 1968 Chargers, according to search warrant returns.

Court documents further claim that Noel, 53, used a jail commissary fund to bankroll a close friend for “consulting work.” He’s also accused of running a vehicle transfer scheme, in which he sold vehicles from the sheriff’s office or his companies to himself for $1 – or for nothing at all. Other times, he sold them and pocketed the money, according to police.

Legal filings allege, too, that Noel received millions of dollars worth of military surplus equipment during his time as Clark County sheriff and sold at least some of it for personal gain.

The investigation additionally uncovered that Noel used public funds to pay child support payments for a child he fathered with a former local councilwoman. And, per documents, he charged $180,000 for tuition and rent for two daughters on an nonprofit credit card.

The state police’s investigation – one of the largest in the agency’s history – is ongoing.

Noel is currently in the Scott County Jail, where he’s serving a 60-day sentence after being held in contempt of court for not following conditions of his pre-trial release.

But in the months since the criminal investigation erupted, commotion around Noel’s fall from grace seems to be staying south.

In interviews with the Indiana Capital Chronicle, more than a dozen people who know Noel – including former law enforcement colleagues, local officials and those who orbited in his powerful political circles – repeatedly described him as “controlling” and “insulated.”

Mostly silent, though, are some of Indiana’s top politicians and leaders in the state capital. Multiple Republican officeholders and party officials declined to speak or did not reply to interview requests.

“The extent of the alleged corruption, and the web, and the family – it’s just such a gripping story. I’m quite surprised that we haven’t heard more,” said Gregory Shufeldt, a political science professor at the University of Indianapolis. “This is not just a candidate using campaign money for something else. This is all sorts of problems, at a greater degree than I think we’re used to when we’re thinking of typical campaign or government misuse of funds.”

Who is Jamey Noel?

Noel, now 53 years old, has lived in Clark County for nearly his entire life.

The small river town of Jeffersonville, the county seat, is more connected to nearby Louisville than Indianapolis. Located along the Interstate 65 corridor, it’s a fusion spot of northern and southern culture, and the area’s rich gambling history has also made it a hotbed for organized crime and corruption for more than a century.

After graduating with an associate’s degree from Indiana University Southeast, Noel joined the fire crew at the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant and worked part-time in the county’s probation office in the early 1990s. He went on to serve as a state trooper for 22 years before embarking on a campaign for county sheriff in 2014.

Pence, then Indiana’s governor, made multiple campaign stops to help garner support for Noel.

His eventual success marked the first time a GOP candidate was elected to the county’s top law enforcement office in decades. In the years following, numerous county and precinct offices in the historically Democratic district flipped red, too – thanks in large part to Noel’s control over local party politics.

“His game plan centered around the precinct committees … that was major to his strategy to getting who he wanted in office,” said Shawn Bostock, who lives in Harrison County and previously worked under Noel as a firefighter. “Your precinct committeemen are actually the most powerful seats – they organize the executive structure of your county party. (Noel) knew that, and he gained a lot of power by focusing on who got put in those seats.”

In addition to his law enforcement experience, Noel co-founded the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association – also known as New Chapel EMS – an ambulance and emergency medical services company that long held contracts with Clark County, the city of Clarksville and portions of Floyd County. Some local officials are now seeking to void those contracts, including in Floyd County, where New Chapel services ended last month.

A ‘powerful,’ well-connected Republican

Noel’s ascension within the GOP’s ranks dates back to 2009, when he was elected as head of the Clark County Republican Party. In 2014, 2016 and 2018, the role gave him a seat within the state GOP’s central committee, where he helped draft the Indiana Republican Party’s platform.

In 2011, Noel was also selected to serve as the 9th Congressional District chair. And by 2016, he was additionally chosen by Indiana Republican Party leaders to play a key role in nominating the party’s presidential nominee at the GOP national convention. As a delegate, he pledged support for Donald Trump.

In the interim, Noel was key to helping numerous candidates gain access to Republican ballots and see success at the polls. That is, to run as a Republican in Clark County or the 9th District, candidates had to get approval from Noel.

In 2016, for example, Noel gave Hollingsworth – a transplant from Tennessee – the greenlight only after he signed a “loyalty pledge” promising not to run as a third-party candidate should he not win the nomination in the primary.

Noel also poured more than $100,000 into GOP campaigns between 2008 and 2022, according to state and federal campaign finance records. Among his contributions were at least $33,622 to Holcomb across his campaigns for both U.S. Senate and governor; $7,650 to Sodrel’s multiple congressional runs; $7,400 to Hollingsworth; $4,600 to U.S. Sen. Todd Young; and $1,950 to Pence.

In 2022, Sodrel used the address for a pole barn owned by Noel – containing many of the classic cars later discovered by police— to run for Congress. Sodrel claimed to live inside the barn, which he described as a friend’s “bachelor pad.”

Despite their close relationship, Noel never held a position within Holcomb’s administration. Still, it’s not clear whether the governor accepted non-nominal travel, gifts or otherwise from Noel – which could have been paid for with stolen taxpayer dollars.

Holcomb declined the Capital Chronicle’s multiple interview requests and did not answer specific questions about what he might have accepted from Noel, knowingly or not.

“Over the years, Jamey Noel and I devoted much time and energy to growing the Republican Party and the principles it stands from a local, state and national perspective,” the governor said in a written statement, his only response to the Capital Chronicle’s questions. “Those efforts brought us together on many occasions at various campaign and official events, the most recent being the 2022 State of the State. At no time, did he utter one unethical word to me nor was I aware of the accusations he’s now facing in court. To say the least, I was shocked, stunned and surprised. Beyond that, I won’t be commenting further as I will let the legal process play out.”

Shufeldt, at the University of Indianapolis, said definitive evidence implicating Holcomb or other Hoosier GOP officials would need to come to light for there to be political implications, however.

“We aren’t seeing the sort of party loyalty, doubling down, rejecting these allegations that you might see at a national level. … This is Republicans pursuing corruption among their own,” Shufeldt said. “But I don’t see there being political or legal implications (for other politicians), unless there’s another shoe to drop … that other people were aware of this, that they consented to this.”

“Unless the governor or other kinds of leaders in the Republican Party were aware of this, there aren’t any sincere or real electoral consequences,” he continued. “The next sheriff is going to be a Republican, the state senators, the state rep, the member of Congress – all of these people are still going to be Republicans.”

Noel’s downfall – and what comes next

The Indiana State Police investigation into Noel started in June 2023, when authorities believe he instructed Clark County jail employees to work on his personal and rental properties, in addition to running errands for him while working on county time and being compensated with public funds, court documents show.

Also putting investigators on alert was Noel’s vast automobile collection, which police said included 133 vehicles. Those were registered to the Utica Township Volunteer Fire Department and New Chapel EMS, but further reviews of those vehicles showed several were “inconsistent” with a not-for-profit fire department and EMS business. Among them are multiple Cadillacs, Chevrolet Camaros and Chevrolet Corvettes.

Noel has also been accused of unlawfully purchasing a Cessna airplane, which he reportedly used for frequent trips to Florida and Cuba.

In November 2023, following an August raid on his Jeffersonville home by state police, Noel was arrested and charged with 15 state felonies. Ten additional felony charges were filed in February. Another six felonies were filed Monday – five additional counts of theft and one count of money laundering.

According to court documents, investigators found thousands of dollars in cash, more than 130 vehicles, evidence of ghost employment and “questionable” use of public funds.

Noel paid an all-cash bail of $75,000 and managed to stay out of jail until a special judge in the criminal case threw him behind bars after a theatrical hearing in April, yelling at Noel in court and slamming his gavel so hard it broke.

The former sheriff’s 60-day contempt sentence is set to end next week. His criminal trial is currently scheduled to begin Nov. 6, one day after the 2024 general election.

Last month, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita additionally lodged two civil cases in an effort to force Noel to pay back the state agencies he allegedly took public funds from to pay for personal spending.

In one lawsuit, Rokita said Noel should be required to reimburse the Clark County jail commissary fund more than $900,000 for “funds misappropriated, diverted or misapplied,” which were cited in an audit report filed by the State Board of Accounts in February.

Rokita also requested a restraining order that would temporarily restrict Noel from selling real estate properties, stocks and bonds, vehicles, firearms, clothing and jewelry while the attorney general’s legal challenges are pending.

A Clark Circuit Court judge has since asked the Indiana Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to oversee both cases.

In the meantime, Mac Spainhour, a retired conservation officer who ran against Noel in 2014, said the Clark County community is looking for more statewide attention to come to the case.

“Whether it be Jamey Noel or anyone else, I feel bad for Clark County residents who, in the long run, will ultimately be the ones hurt the most,” Spainhour said. “In a big city, this might get lost in the bureaucracy, but in smaller communities, the hurt is felt far more.”

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: Follow Indiana Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

The rise and fall of former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel (2024)
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