Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marion County Prosecutor's Office Confirms Dropping Felony Charges Against Omnisource; Omnisource Says Agreement to "Donate" $300,000 Unrelated to Dropped Charges

The Indianapolis Star reports on the latest developments:
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is dropping criminal charges against OmniSource and is returning thousands of dollars it seized during an investigation of the metal recycling company.
The prosecutor’s office announced this morning that it will drop three counts of corrupt business influence and five counts of attempted receipt of stolen property. Investigators had alleged that OmniSource bought stolen items, such as copper wire and vehicles, on more than 30 occasions from June 2007 to May 2009.
 “Having now carefully reviewed the case, which was initiated by grand jury indictment under my predecessor, I can say that the evidence did not support those allegations,” Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a release. “There is simply insufficient evidence that OmniSource or its employees knowingly engaged in any unlawful transactions.”  
Curry said a judge in the criminal cases has ruled that OmniSource was improperly charged as a corrupt business enterprise under Indiana law.

OmniSource was falsely accused from the beginning, said Ben Eisbart, the company’s executive vice president and compliance director. He said not all of the information was presented to the grand jury that indicted the company last fall.

Curry gave OmniSource a chance to present their side of the case, which led to the dismissal of the criminal charges, Eisbart said.

“The fact of the matter is that (Curry) and his staff had the courage to review the facts objectively and they acted to dismiss the case before any further harm was done,” Eisbart said.
[Omnisource] sued the prosecutor’s office last October to try to recover more than $277,000 seized during the investigation.

The prosecutor’s office has agreed to return that money, as well as files and pieces of equipment that were seized.

It also will drop a forfeiture claim former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi filed during his final days in office.
The company plans to donate $300,000 to a law enforcement fund to help pay for training and other measures that law enforcement deems necessary.

Eisbart said the donation is not a pay-off for the prosecutor dropping the case. He said it’s a “good faith” gesture to show that the company has always cooperated law enforcement.
Prosecutor Terry Curry
To see the rest of the article, click here.
So the charges against Omnisource's employees were completely without merit, yet the company decided to "donate" $300,000 to a law enforcement fund out of the goodness of their heart?  And we're supposed to believe this had nothing to do with the dropping of the felony charges?

Okay, let's say it didn't have to do with the criminal charges, that they decided to settle the civil forfeiture case for $300,000.  Why would Omnisource have done that?  The prosecutor's office and/or private attorney Greg Garrison missed the deadline for pursuing the civil forfeiture action.  They were out of court.  There is no absolutely reason for Omnisource to settle the case for $300,000 unless it had to do with a deal to dismiss the criminal charges.  

Is Curry's office submitting the proposed settlement to the forfeiture court for approval?  One of the things Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney got in trouble for was out-of-court forfeiture settlements not approved by the court.

In approving the settlement, is the Court going to demand that Prosecutor Curry make a showing that there was $300,000 in law enforcement costs on that particular case?  If he doesn't make that showing, then under Indiana law and the Supreme Court's decision in Serrano v. State, any money about law enforcement costs must go to the Common School Fund.  The Court, in reviewing the settlement, should also take into consideration that the criminal charges were said by both sides to be without merit and the forfeiture deadline had been missed.  The Court should not be sanctioning by approving the deal what many observers might note looks an awfully lot like bribery.

This deal stinks as badly if not worse than anything Carl Brizzi was accused of doing.  Here the accused makes a "donation" of $300,000 to a cause the Prosecutor supports and the felony charges go away. We're supposed to believe the timing is a coincidence...that the "donation" had nothing to do with the dropping of cirminal charges which both sides suggest had no merit.  We're supposed to also believe that Omnisource decided to donate the $300,000 even though a missed deadline made it impossible for the prosecutor's office to win the civil forfeiture action. 

All of us who hoped for a more ethical Marion County Prosecutor's Office with the election of Terry Curry have to be wondering exactly who was elected last November.


Nicolas Martin said...

Cops along the roadside in Thailand and Indonesia also like to receive "good faith" contributions from drivers they pull over. This is closer to the scale of what Ferdinand Marcos considered good faith to amount to, though.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Can anyone bring a qui tam kind of action to get the $300,000 paid into the school fund?