Decision reached in Charlie White appeal; 3 convictions thrown out
INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 29, 2014) – The Indiana Court of Appeals has issued a decision in former Secretary of State Charlie White’s appeal of his perjury, theft and fraud convictions.
The three-judge panel struck down three of White’s convictions but let three more stand (read the court’s opinion).
White claimed he was the victim of legal malpractice on behalf of his attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.
His current attorney, Andrea Ciobanu, told the judges earlier this month that “there was no offer of proof of anything” at White’s 2012 trial. “He paid his attorney a lot of money to prepare for this trial. It was supposed to be a three-week trial. He spent a lot of money on it. There was no case presented whatsoever. He was caught off guard.”
Brizzi argued that White and other defense witnesses were unreliable in their accounts and their testimony would ultimately turn the case against his client. That’s why he refused to call them to the stand.
Brizzi told FOX59 News, “It’s been my experience that the truth, although it may take a while, does prevail.”
“We ultimately conclude that three of White’s convictions must be vacated,” wrote the panel in its opinion. “Two of the convictions violate double-jeopardy principles. As for the third conviction, the perjury charge against White should have been dismissed.”
The court found White was essentially convicted and sentenced twice for the same count: making a false statement regarding his address on the form he used to change his voter registration.
At the appeals hearing, the judges quizzed Ciobanu on the validity of White’s claim that he was living at his ex-wife’s address while serving on the Fishers Town Council before his election as Secretary of State.
In their ruling, the judges determined that White’s perjury conviction was based on his street address, not his county of residence which was the only relevant factor in determining residency.
“As for White’s post-conviction claims, we conclude that Attorney Brizzi was not ineffective.”
White’s conviction effectively removed him from office.
Hamilton County prosecutors contend White committed voter fraud and theft by claiming to represent a part of Fishers in which he did not live.
White was sentenced to one year of home detention. That sentence was stayed pending outcome of the appeal.
One judge indicated that arguments of poor legal strategy don’t necessarily constitute the grounds for an appeal as the trial court made its decision based on the facts presented before the bench.
“That’s not to say they’ve been correctly determined but they have been determined,” said Judge Michael Barnes during the Dec. 9 hearing. “It’s very difficult for this panel or any panel of any appellate court simply to say, ‘Well, they got it all wrong. We’re going back to square one here.’”
The court struck down White’s argument that he was selectively prosecuted.
“White’s claims all circle back to his assertion that he and other political figures engaged in essentially the same conduct yet only White was prosecuted.
“White cannot succeed on this claim.”
The court found that White was, “a newsworthy lawbreaker, who as Secretary of State, was responsible for ensuring the integrity and security of our state’s elections…”
While three of White’s convictions were vacated and three will stand, since the sentences were ordered to be served concurrently, the court ordered that the defendant would still serve his term of home detention.
In a statement to FOX59 News, attorney Ciobanu wrote, “We are pleased that the court of appeals vacated three of Mr. White’s claims. Mr. White fully intends to exhaust all of his remedies for a full reversal.”
White’s final legal stratagem would be an appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.