Former Marion Co. prosecutor will not face criminal charges in bribery investigation

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.— U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett announced Tuesday that while he found evidence of misconduct, he could not prove allegations of bribery in an investigation of former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

“Carl Brizzi has been the target of a federal investigation into actions taken and decisions made while he was the elected Prosecutor of Marion County,” begins the statement. “This investigation…involved…allegations of bribery.”

Hogsett said it is “unacceptable for a prosecutor to receive at $29,000 campaign contribution from the father of a woman who has requested her prison sentence for murder be modified.”

That woman was Paula Willoughby, who was sentenced to prison for the murder of her husband Darryl. Her father is millionaire industrialist Harrison Epperly.

Hogsett said it was also unacceptable for the former prosecutor to be a private business partner with attorney Paul Page while Brizzi was overseeing a plea bargain for a Page client, steroids dealer Joseph Mobarecki.

“The criminal law requires more to support a conviction,” said Hogsett in an unusual written statement to announce that criminal charges are not being filed against a target.

Brizzi’s former number two man, David Wyser, has already pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe in the form of a $2,000 campaign donation from Willoughby’s attorney a month after agreeing to the woman’s release from prison. Wyser has yet to be sentenced for his guilty plea, and Hogsett said he did not provide any evidence linking Brizzi to the illicit payments and subsequent sentence modification.

Page, who was convicted of bank fraud in the purchase of an Elkhart office building with Brizzi, did not indicate that Brizzi’s business relationship led to the lenient plea agreement with Mobarecki which included a return of seized cash so that his client could pay legal fees.

“Because neither Paul Page, nor David Wyser, nor any other witness has provided direct evidence that Mr. Brizzi received a bribe…I have determined that there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Brizzi committed the crime of bribery and sustain a conviction.”

Hogsett said he would report Brizzi’s alleged misconduct to the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which may decide to refer the case to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission which has heard previous cases of misconduct lodged against Brizzi.

Brizzi is currently the target of a malpractice lawsuit filed against him by Charlie White, former Indiana Secretary of State, who Brizzi unsuccessfully defended against charges of voting fraud in 2012.

Earlier this month Brizzi told Fox 59 News that he did not expect to be indicted on federal charges.  He released the following statement following Hogsett’s announcement:

“The news today comes as no surprise to me and the truth has prevailed. The U.S. Department of Justice has conducted a thorough, exhaustive and expensive investigation over three years that supports my contentions that I conducted my business affairs both ethically and legally.

A prosecutor has the power to indict or not indict.  Neither Joe Hogsett nor any other prosecutor should give opinions about ethics or morals.  Hogsett’s baseless aspersions in a statement issued to announce that no charges will be made against me is a continuation of his disregard for the boundaries of his office.

I want to deeply thank my family and friends who’ve been there for me during a protracted and painful period. 

I am currently on my way to work on a case in London and look forward to returning home to move forward in a proactive and positive way.”

Read Hogsett’s statement in its entirety below:

For some time now, Carl Brizzi has been the target of a federal investigation into actions taken and decisions made while he was the elected Prosecutor of Marion County. The inquiry has centered on two cases: State of Indiana vs. Paula Willoughby and State of Indiana vs. Joseph Mobareki. This investigation of possible violations of federal criminal law involved, but was not limited to, allegations of bribery.

While it may be unacceptable for a prosecutor to receive a $29,000 campaign contribution from the father of a woman who has requested her prison sentence for murder be modified Willoughby), or for a prosecutor to have a financial relationship with a criminal defense lawyer while determining what plea bargain should be extended to a client of that same defense lawyer (Mobareki), the criminal law requires more to support a conviction.

As the United States Attorney, I must determine that there is sufficient admissible evidence to prove a federal crime beyond a reasonable doubt prior to authorizing criminal charges. The federal criminal investigation and prosecution of David Wyser for bribery produced no direct evidence from any witness – including David Wyser – that any individual other than Wyser was responsible for a sentence modification for Paula Willoughby.

Likewise, the federal criminal investigation and prosecution of Paul Page for bank fraud in relation to the Elkhart property produced no direct evidence from any witness – including Paul Page – that the proceeds Mr. Brizzi received from the Elkhart transaction influenced the decision to give Paul Page’s client Joseph Mobareki an unusual plea bargain.

Because neither Paul Page, nor David Wyser, nor any other witness has provided direct evidence that Mr. Brizzi received a bribe in connection with the Willoughby matter or the Mobareki plea bargain, I have determined that there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Brizzi committed the crime of bribery and sustain a conviction.

However, under the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is obligated to report Mr. Brizzi’s alleged misconduct in the Willoughby and Mobareki matters. I have instructed that this office provide the evidence gleaned from this investigation to the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility for their determination on whether the alleged
misconduct should be referred to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

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