Thursday, December 01, 2011

Plowman Gets Off With Lenient Sentence

U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney sentenced convicted former Indianapolis City-County-Councilor and high-ranking IMPD Officer Lincoln Plowman to just 40 months in prison for his conviction for bribery and extortion charges. Prosecutors had sought a 6 1/2 year sentence for Plowman, while his attorney and supporters pleaded with the judge to sentence him to no jail time. With time off for good behavior, Plowman could be a free man in less than two years.

Plowman could have faced a sentenced of as much as 20 years and 10 years, respectively, for the two felony convictions. News reports make no mention of any fine being imposed against Plowman. He could have been fined up to $500,000. Instead of sending him to prison immediately, McKinney is allowing Plowman to spend the holidays with his family and won't require him to begin serving his sentence until January. Plowman could have been sent directly to prison following his conviction in September, but he instead was allowed to return to his home while being subject to monitoring that allowed him to go to work and attend church services. There is little chance now that Plowman will offer any assistance to prosecutors to bring other public officials to justice for the rampant corruption taking place in Indianapolis, if that was ever the objective of federal prosecutors.

The lenient sentence is surprising in light of the fact that Plowman contested the charges by providing contradictory testimony in his own defense in a last-ditch effort to avoid the consequences of plotting with an undercover FBI agent to grease the wheels to smooth approval for zoning for a high-end strip club the undercover agent proposed to establish in Indianapolis as part of the ruse. Plowman also arguably made false statements to FBI agents when he voluntarily talked to federal agents following his initial arrest for which he was never charged. Federal prosecutors also left other criminal charges on the table with which they could have charged Plowman, but they instead chose only the low-hanging fruit in the case.

Plowman told the undercover agent that he controlled the zoning boards and would need his cut for making the deal happen. Plowman sought a $5,000 cash payment and campaign contribution in consideration for aiding the undercover agent. Plowman insisted in his testimony that he was simply "talking smack" when he claimed to control the zoning boards, although Plowman did in fact have some control over appointments to the boards through his position chairing the Metropolitan Development Committee while he served on the council. The evidence at trial also established that Plowman had been working as a consultant for PT's Show Club in Lawrence in direct violation of IMPD rules barring him from working part-time for a licensed adult establishment. Plowman's efforts were largely to reward him from fighting a smoking ban ordinance before the council on behalf of the adult entertainment industry. Evidence also learned by FBI agents showed Plowman had taken money in the past from Dancer's Show Club as well.

Today's sentencing should outrage many Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys who see their clients sentenced to far more lengthy prison sentences in federal court on a regular basis for committing offenses less serious than those committed by Plowman. Crime is certainly worth the risk for the favored political insiders in Indianapolis.

UPDATE: The Star's Alex Campbell and Chris Sikich have a story today which provides some perspective from Plowman's former colleagues:
 . . . He kept his police badge and became an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer when the agencies merged in 2007.
That became an issue in 2008, former council President Bob Cockrum said, when Plowman asked to be appointed chairman of the public safety committee.
Plowman didn't see it as too big of a conflict, but the Republican caucus did, Cockrum recalled. Instead, it appointed him chairman of the Metropolitan Development Committee.
"He accepted it," Cockrum said. "But he wasn't really happy about it." . . .
He voted against smoking-ban proposals in 2005 and 2009. As current council President Ryan Vaughn and Cockrum recall, it was one of his most notable positions on any ordinance.
"I think Lincoln had burned some bridges on the smoking-ban issue," Vaughn said.
Federal prosecutors will tell you they know why. From 2005, Plowman had a $1,000-per-month consulting job on the side, with a strip club called PT's -- which also opposed bans on smoking.
That was one of many seedy details to come out of Plowman's trial. Several of Plowman's colleagues agree: None of what has come out about him has been surprising.
"I think people who know him can easily picture him doing that," said fellow Republican Mike Speedy, who served on the council with him but is now a state representative.
Speedy remembers Plowman as buffoonish and arrogant, and prone to overselling his own status . . .
Democratic Minority Leader Joanne Sanders agreed. Plowman always made her uncomfortable, often acting too slick, she said.
"There were a couple of instances where after a committee meeting, he would try to engage me in a discussion about votes and act as if I owed something or this is how it works -- you give me this, and I'll give you that," Sanders said.
Another Democrat, Angela Mansfield, said she quickly sized up Plowman as "a player" when she joined the council in 2004.
"He was more into the playing of politics than good public policy," she said . . .


Marycatherine Barton said...

Shame on Judge McKinney!

Diana Vice said...

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Had Enough Indy? said...

How usual is it to let someone go home after sentencing?