Not (Not) Guilty Yet: Former IN SoS to Appeal Conviction to US Supreme Court

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In the early days of this blog, there were few stories that were as reliable for regular news as the indictment, trial and conviction of then-Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, who was stripped of his office after being found guilty of voter fraud. That beat has been quiet for a while, but the story re-emerged this week as the Indiana Supreme Court was the latest to refuse White’s appeals. IndyStar.com has more:

Former Secretary of State Charlie White wants to get all of his felony convictions in a voter fraud case overturned, and he’s willing to go as far as the country’s highest court to do so.

Indianapolis attorney Andrea Ciobanu, who is handling White’s appeal, said her client intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case, following a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court last week to not rule on his 2012 convictions.

“He fully intends to exhaust all of his remedies,” Ciobanu said in an email to The Indianapolis Star, adding that White also can file a habeas corpus petition in federal court — an option that she says the embattled former politician will pursue if necessary.

The Indiana Supreme Court justices, in a 4-0 decision last week, denied the request to transfer White’s case to the state’s highest court. 

White had gotten some good news in a lower court late last year, as the Court of Appeals dismissed or reversed three of the 6 counts against him:

A three-judge panel in December reversed White’s conviction on some of the charges, citing double-jeopardy violations.

White was convicted in February 2012 of six Class D felony charges, which stemmed from his residency while he served on the Fishers Town Council. Prosecutors said White voted and took pay as a council member of a district in which he no longer resided. White claimed he was living with his ex-wife in their marital home, which is within the council district. But evidence presented during the trial indicated that he had been living in a new town home outside the district.

A jury convicted the former Hamilton County Republican Party chairman of three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of theft. He was convicted a little more than a year after he was elected secretary of state in November 2010. His conviction made him ineligible for the state post.

White asked the Court of Appeals to overturn his convictions and to rule that his defense attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, was ineffective for not presenting evidence and witnesses on his behalf.

The appeals court overturned two of his voter fraud charges and one of his perjury charges. The appellate judges also ruled that Brizzi was not ineffective.

While White won’t actually go to jail if the conviction stands, the case has ended his political career – and eliminated his right to vote. From an earlier IndyStar story:

The trial court sentenced him to one year of electronic monitoring but stayed the sentence pending the outcome of his appeal. The Court of Appeals decision does not change White’s sentence, which he has to serve concurrently. It also does not change White’s status as a convicted felon, and he remains ineligible to run for political office.

White’s case is a reminder that while domicile and residence are elusive concepts, they can bite an officeholder (like former L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon) when questions arise.

If nothing else, it’s a fun little trip down the blog memory lane. We’ll see if White goes through with his appeal (and if necessary, the habeas petition) – and if it makes news, I’ll have to share it here if only to complete the saga.

Stay tuned.

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