Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Charlie White Case Demonstrates Indiana's Unequal Justice System

On Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals handed down a decision in the Charlie White appeal throwing out three of the six charges for which White was convicted, and affirming the remaining three.

Tossed were two of the charges due to double jeopardy reasons and the "perjury"conviction for White
Charlie White
supposedly lying on his marriage certificate. The Court did not find the address on the form to be a "material fact," a necessary requirement for perjury.  It's astonishing that the trial judge didn't throw out that charge from the beginning.  What I find surprising though is that the Indiana Court of Appeals didn't also throw out the equally absurd "theft" charges.   Supposedly White "stole" money from the Town of Fishers by being paid for work performed on the council when he no longer resided at the original address from which he was elected.  There was no attempt to remove him pursuant to procedures that had been established and there was no dispute that White performed the work.  Fishers certainly did not consider itself to be a victim and had had no problem paying White, which pay was later returned.  As any employment attorney would have advised Fishers officials, if someone performs work, the Town must pay that person or face a law that mandates treble damages and attorney's fees.

The White case has become emblematic of the two tiered system of justice Indiana employs.  If a politician is politically popular, at least with one party or the other, the parties will work together to protect the politician from prosecution.  If a politician ticks off the power brokers in both parties, as White did, they will come after that politician with gusto, leaving no rock unturned.  Thus, we had special prosecutors, Republican John Dowd and Democrat Daniel Siglar, wading through White's marriage and mortgage records in a zeal to find anything they could to throw at White.

Meanwhile, former Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh continue to vote using Indianapolis addresses while clearly not residing at those addresses.  Pursuant to the White case, they are committing felonies every time they cast a ballot using those Indianapolis addresses.   Their combined felonies would dwarf even what White was accused of, yet do charges get filed against them?  Of course, not. The irony is that the three judges that affirmed the vote fraud conviction of White were appointed by former Governor Bayh who commits the exact same offense.

But if the Lugar and Bayh examples aren't enough to convince you of Indiana's unequal justice system, how about the saga of former Superintendent Tony Bennett?  An investigator in the Indiana Inspector General's Office concluded that numerous prosecutable felonies had been committed by Bennett and members of his staff.  The information on the Republican Bennett was turned over to two Democratic Prosecutors, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett.  Both apparently have declined to prosecute despite what appears to have been a case of high level public felonious conduct handed to them on a silver platter.

What is the difference between Tony Bennett and Charlie White?  Well, certainly the allegations against Bennett were far more serious than those lodged against White  The other difference is that Bennett, unlike White, had not burned bridges with powerful Republicans.

The lesson is if you want to avoid prosecution in this state, don't tick off those in political power.   If you have friends in high places, there is hardly anything you can do which will result in prosecution.

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