Ex-top prosecutor sentenced in federal corruption case

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David Wyser was at one time the second most powerful man in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, negotiating plea agreements, quarterbacking trial cases, addressing the media, administering justice in Indianapolis.

Now he is a convicted felon for his admitted role in a case of corruption that netted him a mere $2,500 campaign donation after a Fox 59 News investigation.

“I told the truth and I took my punishment for it,” said Wyser outside of the federal courthouse after being sentenced to three years probation, six months home detention and community service.

“David Wyser…is a convicted felon and will never practice law again,” said U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett.

“Federal law does not recognize a reward,” read a statement from Hogsett’s office. “The charge is ‘accepting a bribe.’”

Wyser admits taking a reward, he refuses to call it a bribe, after modifying the sentence of a convicted murderer.

Paula Willoughby was serving two consecutive prison sentences totaling 70 years for masterminding the murder of her husband Darrell.

He would have turned 53 years old today.

After serving 17 years in prison, Willoughby qualified for early release in the summer of 2009. Willoughby’s father, millionaire industrialist Harrison Epperly, engaged the services of top defense attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer to win a sentence modification for his daughter.

Emails included in the federal government’s pre-sentence report indicate that the topic of Epperly donations to Wyser’s 2010 campaign for Hamilton County Prosecutor were a constant source of discussion between the Chief Trial Deputy and the killer’s attorney.

Epperly gave $30,000 in donations to Prosecutor Carl Brizzi’s reelection campaign in 2006.

After more than two years of negotiations, Wyser–with Brizzi’s approval–signed off on the deal in late May of 2009 and his campaign immediately received a donation from Epperly.

The money was not deposited in the bank by his campaign until the day Judge Grant Hawkins approved the modification a month later.

Wyser’s attorney told Judge Sarah Evans Barker the timing was “a coincidence.”

“I didn’t solicit money at all,” Wyser told reporters. “I wrongfully accepted a reward for a benefit that I conferred.”

“What he was charged with,” said Hogsett, “was the receipt of a reward as the result of an official decision made by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office that was made to the benefit of Paula Willoughby. As the court made clear today, Mr. Wyser’s act was an act of criminal corruption, pure and simple.”

During sentencing, Barker cited confusing campaign finance laws, Wyser’s previously pristine reputation and the lack of further investigation into official corruption allegations.

“There are sure a lot of people who did not act honorably,” said the judge. “Lawyers, other prosecutors who were not acting with the highest legal, moral and ethical duties.

“(Wyser) shouldn’t be scapegoated for all the other questionable behavior.”

The U.S. Attorney announced last month he did not have a corruption case against Brizzi that would result in a guilty verdict.

Hogsett also did not file charges against Epperly or Lukemeyer, who has previously denied a quid-pro-quo campaign donation because of the modification deal.

“Lukemeyer…and Epperly…all these guys skated,” said an embittered Wyser whose guilty plea will result in the only conviction of the federal investigation into prosecutor’s office corruption. “They all gave lies and made up lies about their involvement. Lukemeyer lied to cover her butt. The truth is she knew what was going on here. She asked me if I wanted the reward of redoing the modification and I accepted that.

“I appreciate the judge’s comments and clearly she was able to see through Hogsett’s tactics when he made a statement a couple weeks ago that he didn’t have enough evidence or insufficient evidence to go after Carl Brizzi. I think anybody who is in the system knows that is completely disingenuous. There was plenty of evidence supported by the documents that they filed in my case.”

Darrell Willoughby’s sister disagreed with what Wyser did…but she found agreement in what he said.

“When you’re a politician, a lawyer, someone with money, you’re not going to do time,” she said after addressing the court. “You’re not going to be held accountable. The state will do whatever it can to protect you because they don’t send these kind of boys to jail.

“When you’re playing hardball with these boys in politics, you do not stand a chance as a common person. You don’t.”

Wyser now lives in Nevada after resigning his post at the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office last spring when he pleaded guilty to the bribery count.