3 counts upheld against ex-Indiana elections chief
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A state appeals court on Monday upheld three felony convictions against former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White from a trial that had forced him from office, while dismissing three other counts.
The ruling doesn’t affect White’s automatic removal from office after his 2012 trial for a term that ends on Wednesday.
White was pleased with the ruling that three of the convictions were improper and “fully intends to exhaust all of his remedies for a full reversal,” defense attorney Andrea Ciobanu said in a statement.
The case against White, a Republican, stemmed from his using his ex-wife’s home in Fishers as his voting address in 2010 while serving on the Indianapolis suburb’s town council and running for secretary of state as he lived at his then-fiancee’s townhouse.
The appeals court rejected White’s arguments that his defense lawyer during his 2012 trial provided incompetent counsel. The three-judge panel led by Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik unanimously upheld White’s convictions on perjury, voting in an incorrect precinct and theft, which was for wrongly accepting his Fishers Town Council salary while not living in his council district.
The judges ruled that White’s convictions for submitting a fraudulent voter’s registration and casting a fraudulent election ballot represented double jeopardy with other charges and that a perjury conviction for giving a false address on a marriage license application was improper.
John Dowd, who was a special prosecutor in White’s trial, said he was satisfied that the most substantial charges were upheld.
“They were the most significant in terms of his conduct, so I’m pleased with the decision overall,” Dowd told The Associated Press.
The appeals court kept in place White’s one-year sentence of home detention in the case. A Hamilton County judge had put White’s sentence on hold during his appeal.
Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Republican Connie Lawson to replace White, and she won election last month to a four-year term as Indiana’s chief elections officer.
White’s appeal argued that his trial attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, had provided incompetent counsel by failing to call any witnesses in his defense. White also did not testify on his own behalf.
The appeals court ruling said Brizzi’s strategy was legitimate and that the jury apparently had much to consider as it took 13 hours of deliberations before convicting White on six of the seven charges against him.
“It was a risk to put White on the stand given his demeanor and commentary both before and during trial,” the ruling said.
White has maintained he was unfairly singled out and that other politicians such as Daniels and former Sen. Richard Lugar also haven’t lived at the addresses from which they were registered to vote.
Dowd said he believed Brizzi was effective in defending White throughout the time the case was in the Hamilton County court.
“Mr. Brizzi was not incompetent and did, in fact, present as good a case as he could given what he had to work with,” Dowd said.
The state attorney general’s office, which represented the prosecutors before the appeals court, said it was reviewing Monday’s ruling and considering whether to appeal the decision to overturn the three convictions.