INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — There was a time in the late 2000s when Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi was riding high.
Brizzi had been overwhelmingly re-elected in 2006 as the result of a campaign flush with money injected by financier Timothy Durham making the prosecutor the go-to guy not only for for criminal justice but also GOP funding inroads in Indianapolis.
The prosecutor took to partying at Durham’s Geist mansion and flying on his friend’s Lear Jet to attend social events with entertainers like Ludacris.
He squired Rudolph Giuliani around Indianapolis during the former New York City mayor’s short-lived 2008 presidential campaign.
Brizzi decided to call it quits after two terms in 2010, after being named to sit on Durham’s Fair Finance Board of Directors, having some success in real estate investment and sending out feelers for a job in one of Indianapolis’ leading law firms.
Then it all came crashing down.
A Fox 59 News investigation in the winter and spring of 2010 revealed a pattern of questionable deals, lax ethics, financial self-serving, personal missteps and a general loss of confidence by the local political and legal communities, culminating with Durham’s indictment and conviction in a $225 million swindle of shareholders that landed the former millionaire kingpin in federal prison essentially for life with the title of, “The Midwest’s Madoff.”
Brizzi resigned his seat on the Durham board and was never implicated in the financial misdeeds.
The top assistant Brizzi picked to succeed him as prosecutor dropped out of the GOP primary race days after learning Fox 59 News would tie her boss to the approval of a reduced prison sentence for a well-connected killer with a wealthy father.
Brizzi’s chief trial deputy, essentially the prosecutor’s right hand man, lost his race to become Hamilton County’s prosecutor months later before taking a guilty plea and admitting to accepting a payoff in the killer’s sentence reduction.
Governor Mitch Daniels was not pleased with Brizzi and the controversies he and his friend Durham had brought to the local and state republican parties. Daniels’ reluctantly agreed to sacrifice his chief counsel to run for the Marion County prosecutor’s job in the wake of the bad headlines and Mark Massa promptly called on Brizzi to resign.
Brizzi refused, Democrat Terry Curry was eventually victorious in that race and Massa was later named to the Indiana Supreme Court by his former boss.
Brizzi hung in there throughout the campaign, continuing to host a weekly radio show, blasting his critics and Fox 59 News for its reporting of his scandals, until slipping off the political and media radar in 2011 while hanging out his shingle as a working lawyer, representing criminal and civil clients.
A fellow attorney, Brizzi’s friend and real estate partner Paul Page, was found guilty of wire fraud for his role in the purchase of an Elkhart office building in 2008 that was later leased to the State of Indiana.
Brizzi was in for half-interest in the building as a, “finder’s fee,” yet he may or may not have fully revealed his interest on a state-mandated financial disclosure report.
“It was disclosed on the form,” Brizzi told Fox 59 News. ”It was disclosed on the tax record. Its been disclosed on every record where it needs to be disclosed.”
At about the same time Page was paying Brizzi $25,000 for his 50% stake in the Elkhart building, the attorney was representing an alleged drug dealer in a case brought by the prosecutor’s office.
Joseph Mobareki was caught with thousands of hits of steroids and $17,550 stashed in his freezer, money typically seized by prosecutors under rules of forfeiture.
Page claimed a deputy prosecutor agreed to give Mobareki his money back and permit him to plead guilty to a reduced charge, but a supervisor called off the bargain.
“In this case not only was Paul Page a business partner of mine, but also a friend, and I trust him. He’s a good lawyer,” said Brizzi who noted Page’s complaint was, “the only time as prosecutor he came to me and said, ‘Hey, this particular deputy prosecutor who works for you is literally reneging on a deal that he made,’ and so as the prosecutor, as the boss, I called the meeting. I intervened. Everybody was unhappy. I made everyone compromise. After the meeting, everyone was still very unhappy because no one felt like they got what they bargained for but I made a decision and I don’t know how anyone can say there was a conflict of interest.”
Mobareki got back more than half his money, Page got his attorney’s fees paid and Brizzi felt he cut a fair bargain for his friend, his client and the criminal justice system.
“What do you do with defense lawyers who are your friends?” Brizzi asked.
Among approximately a dozen stories broken by the Fox 59 investigation six years ago, the Elkhart building partnership and the Mobareki deal stood out, and were repeatedly brought to the attention of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission with no action taken by any agency against Brizzi.
“I was offered plea deals, I said, ‘No,’” said Brizzi. “’I didn’t do anything wrong and if you want to try to convict me of a crime, let’s go to trial.’ They backed down, not me.”
Brizzi believed his protestations of innocence were confirmed by a pair of letters, dated March 2, 2015, from the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission that read, “The Commission dismissed the grievance on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct which would warrant disciplinary action.”
The letters were signed by G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary of the Commission.
“They had told us in writing last year that all the matters were closed,” said Brizzi, “and now a year later it makes me look like I wasn’t honest when I told people that.”
Last month Brizzi said his attorneys were informed by the Commission that a Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action against their client would be forthcoming after all.
On May 16th, last Monday, the Commission filed the Complaint, reporting, in language directly contradicting its 2015 findings, “The Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Indiana, having found reasonable cause to believe the respondent’s acts, if proved, would warrant disciplinary action…files and presents the Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action.”
The Compliant is signed by G. Michael Witte, the same executive secretary who assured Brizzi he was cleared in the Commission’s investigation a year earlier.
Brizzi said he is stumped as to the Commission’s change in position since March of last year.
“I do not know if anything’s changed.”
In filing his Complaint, Witte cited false statement Brizzi allegedly gave regarding the Mobareki deal on February 27, 2015, less than a week before the former prosecutor was told there would be no misconduct charges.
A year ago Brizzi was still maintaining a relatively low public profile, then came the 2016 election year.
“I got involved in a judicial race in Hamilton County,” he said. “I also started a super PAC called INPACT which ran radio ads in the ninth congressional race and supported Greg Zoeller.”
Brizzi said his friends have their suspicions.
“’Well, when you got back engaged in politics, we thought this might happen,’” he quoted them. “I don’t know if its true or not but sometimes the most obvious explanation is the right answer, I don’t have any other answer.”
Now the man who once enjoyed nearly unchecked authority to bring criminal charges against persons presumed innocent in Marion County for eight years and also oversaw grand jury proceedings in secret is himself turning to the news media that once dogged him and other attorneys to protect his rights against the power of the highest court in Indiana.
“What I discovered is they’re immune. They can say and do anything they want with complete impunity,” he said of the Disciplinary Commission and its executive director. “Officials who have the ability to strip lawyers of their ability to do what they do need to have some measure of accountability.”
Brizzi expects the Supreme Court to hear his case next year.
In the past, misconduct charges regarding his condemnation of the killers of an east side family and a lawsuit and complaint brought by disgraced Secretary of State Charlie White, were both found without merit.
Brizzi, who has sent as many as a half dozen killers away for life, expects to win this battle, too.