Former Secretary of State Charlie White’s case of voter fraud has always been fraught with contradictions and irony.
Elected as the man to enforce Indiana’s election laws, he was convicted of voter fraud for casting a ballot in a part of Fishers where he didn’t live.
His attorney was a high profile former prosecutor who was known for taking on the tough cases personally, but White claims he surrendered his case without putting up a fight.
White will appear before a judge in Hamilton County Thursday, seeking post conviction relief for the jury verdict that booted him from office.
Behind his appeal is White’s contention that former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi practiced legal malpractice in failing to mount a defense during his trial in the winter of 2012.
“Absolutely I got convicted because of ineffective counsel,” White told Fox59 News in his first interview since he filed a lawsuit against Brizzi last month. “My appeals attorney, after he read it, asked me if Carl Brizzi had ever done a trial on his own before.”
White said he paid Brizzi $45,000 from the summer of 2011 through the announcement of the jury’s verdict on Feb. 4, 2012.
What the former secretary of state got was convicted on six of seven charges related to votes he cast in a precinct across town from where he was living in Fishers.
“It’s stunning how none of the mandatory residency law got into the jury’s hands,” said White as he complained that Brizzi did not educate jurors on Indiana election and voting law. “How could you not put that in unless you were ignorant of the law?”
White said that Brizzi’s attention to his case waned as Brizzi’s own legal troubles surmounted.
In December of 2011, barely a month before the White trial, Brizzi associates Paul Page and John Bales were indicted by a federal grand jury over a building the trio owned in Elkhart.
Page pleaded guilty in that case. Bales was acquitted. Brizzi was not charged.
Sources indicate the FBI’s investigation of Brizzi and allegations of public corruption continues.
White claims that not only was Brizzi unprepared for trial, his health deteriorated and his behavior became erratic.
“Almost the first words out of his mouth, when they were choosing the jury was the word, ‘Yo,’ and then he would start telling people stories about him being on the Jerry Springer, Montel Williams show,” said White. “If I would’ve known that that was where he was going on day one, I would have terminated him immediately.”
“Looking back, I think he wanted the case because it was going to get him some publicity.
“Instead of doing the trial, it seemed like he was more worried about the publicity he might get.
“He thought his charisma or what he thought was his charisma would carry the day and some of his remarks seemed to be sophomoric like he’s attempting to entertain people.”
White said Brizzi was making, “wild boasts,” about how he, “had the jury eating out of the palm of his hand, and between the cursing and the irrational behavior, I mean, I never seen him that emotional before.”
As closing arguments approached, and a lack of cross-examination and introduction of witnesses and evidence became evident, White said Brizzi became frantic.
“Back then I thought it was panic,” said White, based on, “lack of preparedness.”
White is suing Brizzi for legal malpractice, fraud and breach of contract.
He is hopeful the lawsuit explains the atmosphere in which his seemingly mystifying defense was conducted and that a judge will recognize the defensive shortcomings the now former attorney faced.
Brizzi’s attorney, Dina Cox, told Fox59 News she could not let White’s comments stand unchallenged.
“We are proud to represent Carl Brizzi,” Cox said. “We have reviewed the facts and evidence and determined that Carl Brizzi did an excellent job in defending Mr. White.
“We look forward to defeating Mr. White’s claims in court and not the media.”
White said he doesn’t expect Brizzi to show any remorse over the defense he mounted.
“All I needed Carl to do was be prepared at the most important critical time in my life and he didn’t care enough to be adequately prepared.”