He insisted on a plea deal for accused drug dealer Joseph Mobareki that would be acceptable to defense attorney Paul J. Page, Brizzi’s friend and business partner, law enforcement sources said. Brizzi also directed his staff—in a highly unusual move—to return $10,000 in cash seized from Mobareki. The money was routed through Page.
A year earlier, Page had arranged for Brizzi to own 50 percent of an Elkhart office building worth $900,000 without investing any cash or co-signing a loan. Brizzi also had collected at least $5,000 in campaign contributions from Page associates at the law firm Baker Pittman & Page and Page Development, which built the Villagio at Page Pointe condos.
Kudos to Corey Schouten and the entire IBJ staff for their continued outstanding investigative reporting. To see the rest of the Brizzi article click here.
IBJ found two other criminal cases where the Prosecutor’s Office supported modifications of felony charges for well-connected attorneys, including Page. But there was nothing in court files that suggests the changes were out of line from standard operating rocedure.
One of the cases involves Rob Odendahl, the sales and property manager for Page Development. He was charged with rape, battery and criminal confinement for an incident involving an ex-girlfriend in June 2005. In November 2006, Odendahl pleaded guilty to criminal confinement, a Class D feloy, and got 365 days of home detention and two years of probation.
The following year, Odendahl hired a new attorney, Paul Page, to pursue a sentence modification. In May 2008, the Prosecutor’s Office and a judge agreed to end Odendahl’s probation term early and change his conviction to a misdemeanor, citing good behavior, a stable job and custody of his son.
The deputy prosecuting attorney on the case, Courtney Curtis, said she didn’t find
the victim’s story credible and figured a jury would have doubts as well, so she offered the initial plea deal. She did not object to the modification—and says she did not feel any pressure from her bosses.
“It was just a really crappy case,” said Curtis, who now handles intellectual property cases for Overhauser & Lindman.
In another case, Prosecutor’s Office Chief Deputy David Wyser supported modification of a 1999 felony murder conviction the Indiana Supreme Court had upheld on appeal in 2001.
Defendant Guilford Forney, then 19, had been involved in a drug deal in which his cousin wound up dead of a gunshot wound. Forney, who had not fired the gun, was sentenced initially to 55 years before winning a reduction to 45 years supported by former Prosecutor Scott Newman.
Defense attorney Bruce D. Donaldson, of locally based Barnes & Thornburg LLP, last year persuaded Wyser to support a modification of the murder conviction justified by good behavior and an impressive educational track record while in prison. Forney was released on April 4, 2009, and is slated to serve two years on work release, followed by one year on probation.
Miller, who handled the case, said he doesn’t remember enough details to know whether an early release was appropriate.
Records show Barnes & Thornburg has given Brizzi at least $12,000 since 2004, and the firm’s partners have given thousands more individually. The firm also has served as registered agent for at least two LLCs on real estate deals in which Brizzi is a partner.
I have to commend Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for being the first to identify that Brizzi's ethical violations were so serious that he should resign. I reached that point after he did. (See Gary's take on the most recent scandal by clicking here.) By now I would think many if not most Republicans also believe Brizzi should resign.