Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brizzi Justice: No Jail Time Time For Cemetery Owner Accused Of Stealing $27 Million

Robert Nelms stood accused of draining off $27 million in cemetery trust funds from Indiana cemeteries after purchasing Memory Gardens Management Corp. five years ago. Today, the Marion Co. Prosecutor's office entered into a plea agreement with him that allows him to avoid any jail time for his crime. "As part of his deal, Nelms would avoid prison, instead receiving an eight-year sentence to community corrections programs and two years on probation," the Star's Jon Murray writes. "If convicted of all of his half-dozen charges at trial, he would have faced a maximum 10 years in prison," he adds. Nelms and his wife, Debora Johnson, originally faced five felony counts of theft and securities fraud charges. The prosecutor's office earlier dismissed all charges against Johnson in consideration for her agreeing to testify against her husband according to Murray. Also, David Bechens, a Nobleville bank officer who served as the trust officer for these cemetery funds, reached a similar deal for agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Who was Nelms' attorney? Why, of course, it was Jim Voyles. I don't know how our public defenders in this county can stand to do their jobs when they see the way the criminal justice system treats their clients in this county compared to criminal defendants who happen to be politically-connected, or who have the money to pay for services of a highly-compensated attorney like Jim Voyles. The disparity in sentencing is staggering. So much for all that stuff they teach us in law school about equal treatment under the law.

14 comments:

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

You've just noticed that the wealthy and well-connected get better treatment in the criminal justice system. As Gomer Pyle would say, "Golly!"

guy77money said...

What's the first sentence in the Godfather (that's the book) "You can steal more money with a briefcase then you can with a gun".

Zirk said...

Absolutely awful..I assume this means that Brizzi is not running for re-election which is a very good thing.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Unbelievable, someone stole $27 million and Brizzi doesn't believe jail time is warranted? I was in court the other day where a woman had bounced a check for something like $20 at Walmart. She had a previous offense about 9 years earlier. Brizzi's office was arguing for time in prison.

Brizzi has never had any interest in white collar crime. Apparently he thinks it doesn't produce "victims."

This city cannot afford another four years of Carl Brizzi.

Chris said...

Far be it from me to interrupt a good conspiracy theory, but does anybody know if Jim Voyles gave Brizzi money? If not, aren't we jumping at the notion that this guy got the sentence he did because of Voyle's relationship with...well, you don't really say....Brizzi himself? Isn't it possible that Jim Voyles became the best criminal defense lawyer in the city by actually being good? I've always thought that the REAL value in having Voyles isn't what he'll do at trial, it's that he never has to go because of what he's already done in the past. That's not about "connections," that's about skill. If the larger point is only the wealthy can buy the big club that is Voyles, then, yeah, I agree. The tone of the article just kind of struck me as if AI was suggesting Voyles had exerted influence that had nothing to do with being a good lawyer.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

So...does he have to repay the $27million?

Advance Indiana said...

Since you asked, Chris, yes, Voyles has made large contributions to Brizzi in the past.

Advance Indiana said...

Murray's story indicates that Nelms will be allowed to continue running the cemeteries. Unbelievable. Here's the reaction of the cemetery association's representative:

"If he's allowed to continue to work in the company, it's a miscarriage of justice," said Bill Keown, general counsel for the Indiana Cemetery Association. He thinks Nelms deserves prison.

And to add to my earlier response, Chris, there is a perception that Brizzi's office is reluctant to take any case to trial when there is a very competent criminal defense attorney involved like Voyles.

Paul K. Ogden said...

The term "conspiracy" is being misused. The fact that someone suggests that campaign contributions by a defense attorney might have played a role in a prosecutuor going lightly on the defense attorney's client is not a suggestion of a "conspiracy." The term "conspiracy" typically involves a wider scheme that what Gary is suggesting might have happened in this case.

Paul K. Ogden said...

He's going to be allowed to continue running the cemetaries? Are you kidding me?

Zirk said...

I think that this deals sucks, but I must say Voyles is the best criminal defense lawyer in the state. He is a master deal maker in a lot of counties because he is good. I have watched him at trial and he surprisingly is not the best at the trial itself. but sure knows how to get deals. But, he is known to be honest and will not hang a Prosecutor out to dry,

guido said...

So, the co-defendants cop a plea to dismiss for testimony, then the main player get probation and community service. Once again innocence is determined by how much you can pay for a lawyer. Justice is definitely blind, but still carries scales to determine the amount of money needed to tip the scales.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Zirk,

While that's true, one thing you learn in law very quickly is that even a good attorney can't turn a bad client into a good one. There's a limit to what an attorney can do, even the best ones.

karma09 said...

Brizzi is between a self-made rock and a hard-place. He rushes to the cameras to get face time when the press catches on to something, talks big, then has to try to wait it out until the press isn't paying attention anymore, before soft-peddling it with a dismissal or weak-kneed plea.

But any plea is better than repeating the humiliating defeat he predictably suffered in the insurance fraud case, where multiple felonies were charged and Brizzi came up empty handed at trial, acquittals across the board.

He'll count this in his office statistics for gaining convictions, rest-assured.