Recycling company OmniSource is asking a judge to force Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to return more than $277,000 authorities seized two years ago as part of a probe into allegations that the company knowingly bought stolen metal . . .You may recall a report by the IBJ's Cory Schouten last April about how the prosecutor's office failed to bring a civil action within one year of seizing the money during the raid on OmniSource's scrap yards, a prerequisite for the government to claim money seized during a lawful search conducted as part of a criminal investigation according to OmniSource's attorney, Larry Mackey. That set off finger-pointing between Brizzi's office and Greg Garrison, whose law firm had been hired by the prosecutor's office to handle civil forfeiture actions on a contingency fee basis over whose fault it was that no civil forfeiture action had been filed. The contract with Garrison's office was negotiated by David Weyser, who like Brizzi, has faced questions of misconduct in the prosecutor's office. Garrison contended he was not entitled to any cut of money law enforcement seized during an investigation; only money recovered in separate civil forfeiture actions he brought on the government's behalf, one he said at the time he intended to bring against OmniSource. Brizzi told reporters in June that a grand jury continued to investigate OmniSource but no criminal charges have been filed to date. OmniSource's lawsuit accuses both Brizzi and Garrison of violating the law and engaging in professional misconduct. Ryckaert reports:
In OmniSource's complaint, the Fort Wayne-based subsidiary of Steel Dynamics claims that a long-running grand jury investigation into criminal allegations against the company is a sham drummed up "to further advance Brizzi's political profile."
"After almost 20 months it has become clear that this action by the prosecutor has never really been about a legitimate concern about metal theft in Marion County or about a desire for accuracy or justice," OmniSource President Mark Millett said in a news release.
"It has become quite apparent that the prosecutor's real motivation was about headlines and a money grab, threatening OmniSource with forfeiture of all of OmniSource's Indianapolis facilities."
Brizzi indicated that he believed the action was directed by OmniSource's lead attorney, Larry Mackey. Mackey, ironically, served as Brizzi's campaign chairman when he was elected to his first term as prosecutor in 2002.
In response to the allegations, Brizzi told Ryckaert that Mackey was overwrought. "I'm going to reserve comment until I see a complaint," Brizzi said. "It does appear that Mr. Mackey is overwrought." This rift seems very strange considering Brizzi's close relationship to Mackey, who has been a frequent guest on Brizzi's weekend radio talk show host, Crime Beat, on WIBC-FM. Shortly after the raid of the OmniSource scrap yards, Mackey's former law partner at Barnes & Thornburg, then-Public Safety Director Scott Newman, said neither police nor OmniSource had engaged in any criminal wrongdoing before the investigation had even been concluded. From the beginning of this investigation, it has been weighted down with conflicts of interest among the key investigators. I guess nothing should surprise me at this point.
OmniSource claims that Brizzi illegally hired private attorney Greg Garrison to oversee the forfeiture of $277,508 seized from the company during raids on six scrap yards in February 2009 and paid him a portion of the forfeiture.
The lawsuit claims Garrison could have earned hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars if, as he allegedly threatened, the company was forced to forfeit all its facilities in Marion and Hendricks counties.
The company claims Brizzi and Garrison are running afoul of laws, the Constitution and ethical guidelines for attorneys.