The IBJ's Mary Dieter (former State House reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal) has a story in the most recent edition of the business magazine discussing the Marion County prosecutor's race and the looming presence of the current occupant of that office, Carl Brizzi, in the race between Republican Mark Massa and Democrat Terry Curry. Dieter writes:
The specter of disgraced Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi looms large in the race to replace him.Brizzi epitomizes the worst of what the office has become. His entangled web of business deals and jockeying to curry favor with political and business insiders has made the office the laughing stock of the country. In her interview of the candidates, Dieter noted particular interest Curry showed in beefing up the prosecution of public corruption cases if he becomes prosecutor. Curry's background as a deputy county prosecutor is handling white collar crimes as opposed to the traditional criminal cases Massa handled as a federal and deputy county prosecutor. Curry "noted the importance of that [white collar crime and corruption] experience because the Marion County prosecutor is the principal watchdog of state government." “How many times in the last eight years have we read about, heard about any significant white-collar-crime case or political corruption case?" Curry asked Dieter. "I think the answer to that is seldom, if ever,” he said. “I think the corresponding question is, have we been very fortunate that that sort of conduct is not going on or has someone been asleep at the wheel?”
Democrat Terry Curry is more than willing to discuss Brizzi; Republican Mark Massa wishes he’d fade away. They agree, however, that Brizzi’s behavior means change is drastically needed in the prosecutor’s office.
Curry puts it this way: “There’s no doubt whatsoever that the No. 1 challenge for the next prosecutor is . . . to restore trust and confidence in the office.”
Massa: “It’s the single biggest challenge that the next prosecutor faces—that is, restoring public confidence not only in the prosecutor’s office but in law enforcement writ large.”
Massa has been up on the air with a couple of ads, while Curry has yet to hit the airwaves. Massa's campaign so far has focused on fighting traditional crimes. He touts his success as a prosecutor in two capital murder cases. I'm not really concerned about which of the candidates has tried more cases, or which type of cases they've tried. The fact is the prosecutor in Marion County has a large staff of seasoned prosecutors who specialize in prosecuting different types of cases. What I'm more concerned is which of the candidates will actually use the office to prosecute public corruption offices at the state level and at the local level. Under all of our recent prosecutors, it has been a complete waste of time for anyone to bother reporting public corruption involving any major political players at the state or local level. A whistle blower is more likely to be outed by the prosecutor's offices to their superior than have their reported crimes taken seriously by the office.
Massa has stated on his campaign website his intent to establish a public integrity section within his office. He also promises to establish a hotline for his grand jury division to receive whistleblower complaints concerning malfeasance committed by public officials and public employees. That's all well and good, but unless he appoints a nonpartisan, independent to head up his public integrity section, I suspect we won't see any more cases prosecuted than we've seen prosecuted under Goldsmith, Modisett, Newman and Brizzi. One of the last Democrats to hold the office back in the 1970s, James Kelley, left office after one term in office under a cloud when it was learned he attended a gay sex and drug party where a young man died of an apparent drug overdose and he initially tried to have his office handle the case before he was outed by the local news media. Scott Newman at first aggressively pursued cases involving corruption in the awarding of Indiana's gaming licenses, but he suddenly dropped his investigation without explanation and then took a job with one of the law firms representing one of the gaming companies he had been investigating. Steve Goldsmith, like several of his predecessors and successors, ignored blatant public corruption in the Center Township Trustee's Office. It goes without saying Brizzi has run the most corrupt prosecutor's office in recent memory, and it's no small wonder he won't investigate public corruption cases brought to his attention.