Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Former City-County Council President Government Witness In Plowman Bribery Case

Advance Indiana has learned that the government intends to call former City-County Council President Bob Cochrum as a witness in the bribery case it has brought against former high-ranking IMPD Officer and City-County Councilor, Lincoln Plowman. Plowman has been accused of accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for aiding the agent in obtaining a variance for a strip club that was to be located in downtown Indianapolis. Earlier reports made no mention of attempts by Plowman to gain support for locating the business in question other than a downtown location.

Plowman's trial was set to begin on Monday until it was delayed because of the unavailability of a key government witness, an FBI agent, due to an unexpected illness of a family member. Cochrum's testimony supposedly relates to a request Plowman had made of Cochrum to support a zoning variance for a business that would be located in Cochrum's district. A press release from the Justice Department last September following Plowman's indictment read:

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that between Aug. 11, 2009, and Dec. 22, 2009, while a member of the City-County Council, Plowman solicited an undercover FBI agent to pay $5,000 in cash and to make a $1,000 campaign contribution for Plowman’s benefit. In exchange for the payments, Plowman allegedly would use his official actions and influence to facilitate the opening of a strip club in Indianapolis. According to the indictment, Plowman was a member of the Metropolitan Development Committee of the City-County Council. He was also a major with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Plowman faces a maximum penalty on the extortion charge of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He faces a maximum penalty on the bribery charge of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. An initial hearing will be scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Indiana.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Richard C. Pilger of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe H. Vaughn. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
Court filings show that the court granted the government's motion for an order in limine to offer evidence of a consensual recording of a conversation with Plowman, an undercover FBI agent and a cooperating individual, as well instructions of the potential penalties against Plowman in the event of an indictment. Plowman intends to offer evidence of government misconduct, and the court granted the government's motion to limit testimony in that regard. Several sealed motions made by the government were taken under advisement by the court. Advance Indiana has learned that the government also intends to call other individuals who served on the Board of Zoning Appeals during the period in question. One BZA member, Brad Klopfenstein, has publicly acknowledged Plowman discussed a potential case with him. Klopfenstein also served as Plowman's campaign manager. It is uncertain when a new trial date will be scheduled.


Had Enough Indy? said...

If the FBI is interested in folks who speak with BZA and MDC members about potential cases, perhaps they need to look at who has discussed active petitions with BZA and MDC members from the past. The law only addresses active petitions, I do believe.

Klopfenstein was reported to have looked into compliant locations for a strip club on behalf of Plowman. Since any non-compliant location would require rezoning, Klopfenstein would not sit in judgement anyway, since he served on the BZA.

I still wonder why the FBI keyed in on Plowman. Rumors have abounded for years about much bigger fish.

Advance Indiana said...

You may recall, Pat, that Plowman chaired the Metropolitan Development Committee and had a hand in the appointment of members of the BZA and MDC, not to mention his high-ranking position at IMPD. Plowman was responsible for getting Klopfenstein appointed to the BZA. Without knowing the specific property in question and how it was zoned, you can't be sure it would be subject to review by BZA or MDC.