Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anonymous Mailing Hits Luke Messer OWI Guilty Plea

An anonymous letter arrived in the mailboxes of several area news sources today, including this blog. It contains information on 5th District congressional candidate Luke Messer's August 4, 1995 arrest while driving on I-65 for operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level greater than .08 but less than .15. The criminal arrest information for Allen L. Messer, who was then 25, included charging information for Schedule I and Schedule II drugs. [See update below with candidate's explanation.] He entered a guilty plea agreement with a Marion County court on January 19, 1996. He received a 60-day sentence with 58 days suspended and a credit for one day spent in jail at the time of his arrest. He was issued a restricted driver's license for 180 days. Messer's defense attorney was William T. Lawrence, who is now a federal judge for the Southern District of Indiana.

The anonymous letter complains about a missing incident report from the 1995 arrest that would shed more light on the circumstances of the arrest and wonders whether party leaders were made aware of the 1995 arrest when he was first appointed to the state legislature. Messer later left his legislative seat to become a full-time partner/lobbyist. According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Messer was admitted to practice law in Indiana on October 31, 1994, less than a year before his arrest. It is unclear whether Messer faced a disciplinary complaint as a result of his arrest and guilty plea, one of the questions posed by the anonymous letter. Messer worked as a partner at the Indianapolis office of Ice Miller until recently. He now practices law at his own firm in Shelbyville, along with his wife, with a practice focused on state and local government issues including education reform, insurance reform, housing and transportation. The anonymous letter notes that Messer has been appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to the Commission For A Drug Free Indiana.

Messer is engaged in Indiana's hottest congressional primary race in years. He's taking on U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, who has been plagued by his own personal scandals over the years. Also running are State Rep. Mike Murphy, former Marion Co. Coroner Dr. John McGoff and businessman Brose McVey, an unsuccessful candidate from the 2002 District 7 race against the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. McGoff went head-to-head against Burton in the 2006 primary, garnering close to 45% of the vote. It is unclear whether any of Messer's primary opponents are responsible for today's mailing.

UPDATE: The Democratic National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. was one of the first hits on this post. I'm not sure what the DNC's interest is in the most Republican-leaning congressional districts in the country.

UPDATE: Messer, through a spokesperson, has acknowledged the OWI conviction calling it a mistake that he has not repeated according to Brian Howey's weekly political report. He denies any drug use, saying that law enforcement included the Schedule I/Schedule II charges on all OWI-related charges as a matter of course at that time. The arrest record entry reads: "Oper.Veh.WithBAC .08-.15%,Sch.I,II". He says he's never smoked pot or smoked tobacco. The sentiment among some Republican leaders who are not necessarily supporting Messer is that this revelation will have no impact on his congressional ambitions. The Roll of Attorneys entry for Messer says he has not been the subject of a disciplinary action in the past.


Vox Populi said...

Isn't Jen Wagner in DC? That could explain it.

If Burton had one serious challenger, Murphy, McGoff, or McVey (with Messer the 4 M's), he'd likely lose. But the anti-Burton vote is going to be divided and he'll win again this time.

Advance Indiana said...

I believe she works for a federal agency, not the party.

Mark said...

Jen works for the NNSA...not the party.

Sean Shepard said...

Adding to Vox's correct assessment, it would be fair to say that the anonymous information came from one of the challengers.

Mark said...

Esp...when most of Messer's supporters are in the 7th CD...Makes for an awesome primary...they have been talking how popular Luke is, but most of his popularity is in the 7th??