Thursday, February 2, 2012

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White Trial - Day 3

Tuesday concluded jury selection in the trial of Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White who is facing seven felony charges related to what he declared his residential address to be on various forms. The prosecution proceeded with four witnesses and entered documentary evidence.

Little testimony was presented Wednesday. The prosecution continued with it's case in chief by presenting Linda Gaye Cordell, Clerk Treasurer for the Town of Fishers Indiana the past 30 years. She authenticated various district maps for the Town of Fishers and ordinances related to elections. She was not familiar with the process for removing a council member from office who had moved outside the district.

Defense attorney Carl Brizzi wanted to question Cordell further about the ordinance and underlying state statute but the State of Indiana objected. The jury was removed and a hearing was held on that issue.

There were some rather heated moments between Brizzi and John Dowd, lead prosecutor for the State. Brizzi claimed that this was the first time in Indiana history that a legislator has been charged with theft for taking pay after moving outside the district and the jurors should get to understand the legal process related to that. John Dowd demanded that Brizzi prove that no one has been charged, essentially asking that he search all criminal cases ever filed. Brizzi countered that he shouldn't have to prove a negative.

The State argued that when an allegation is made that someone has moved out of the district that the accused automatically forfeits office and is immediately removed from the position. Brizzi did not want that impression left in the mind of the jurors and wanted to present evidence that there was a removal process that involved substantive due process procedures.

Judge Steve Nation ruled in favour of the State upholding the objection. The basis was that the witness is not an expert in the law, not qualified to give a legal opinion about the removal process. The forfeiture of office statutes [IC 36-5-2-6 and IC 5-8-5-5] permit the council to initiate removal proceedings which may also include holding a public hearing. Once the council makes a determination that the member has left the district then the office is vacated and the accused member may appeal through an action in the Circuit or Superior Court. Because there was no evidence that the town ever removed White an appeal was not available. Mr White resigned his office thus those laws are not applicable to the matters currently before the court. Due process is afforded here because the jury can make the decision as to whether White resided outside the district. The civil procedure is not exclusive and therefore not applicable to the criminal case.

The Court essentially was saying that those other statutes are not relevant because they were not used and there was no requirement that they be used because the option existed for the town to civilly seek to remove White for allegedly residing outside the district or the State could prosecute criminally.

Cordell concluded her testimony stating that no one had complained to the town that White had moved outside the district.

The next witness was Angela Cornelius the Sr Deputy Treasurer for the Town of Fishers. She authenticated payroll documents and personnel records indicating White's address at various times. She also detailed discussions she had with White when he came to her wanting to repay money to the town that was automatically deposited into his bank account for the time that he lived outside the district. She stated that White repaid the full salary and that his W-2 was not adjusted to reflect the reduction in pay. Thus he paid taxes on money not earned.

Amanda Ricketts, Human Resources Manager for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources where White was employed from 2005-2010 was next to testify. Her testimony centered on the addresses she used to send payroll checks to White. Under cross-examination by Brizzi, Ricketts stated that she didn't know where Charlie resided but had sent a larger than usual [$4,000+] check to him at a new address. Brizzi's questions about that address alluded to it being a locked mail box.

The State concluded it's witnesses for the day with Detective Paul R Hanser who is the Indiana State Police investigator for this case. He authenticated numerous documents which he had collected during his investigation. Those included White's divorce decree, utility bills, voting records, candidacy forms, marriage license and a newspaper article.

All of the documentary evidence was copied and presented to the jurors. As the case had moved forward quicker than expected the State's next witness was not available as he was not arriving in Indianapolis until 6:00 pm yesterday evening. The presentation of evidence was continued until Thursday at 8:30 am.

The State expects that it should be able to complete it case on Thursday. Then it will be the opportunity for White to put on a defense if he wishes. Brizzi said that they have yet to decide if White will testify.

Brizzi stated that he has yet to hear any testimony that would indicate that White violated the law. He posed the question of what is the residence of a truck driver who spends his time traveling across the country, or a salesman, or our federal legislators who have homes here and must meet a residency requirement in their district, just as White does, but who also have homes in Washington D.C. and live outside of Indiana most of the time.

Coincidentally, I received a call during the lunch break from a parent who is in the process of relocating and is maintaining two residences. The other parent has filed an objection asking for an order that the father not have the children at the new residence and that he has violated the relocation statute [IC 31-17-2.2] by relocating prior to the 90 days required by statute.

This will be another opportunity to argued domesticity and residence just as in the White trial. I plan to return to the Hamilton County Court House on Friday to hear more about the fine line between where one is domiciled, where one resides and what one's address is.

The jury is expected to be presented with the White case by Monday.

If you need assistance with a relocation or other child custody matter then please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me.

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More information about child custody rights and procedures may be found on the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates website.

©2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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