The plea agreement, between Marshall and the state of Indiana, is an open plea to the court according to the document. It spells out how Marshall through his defense attorneys, Jim Voyles of Indianapolis and Wilder, may argue for misdemeanor treatment and suspension of prison time. The state, represented by special prosecutors Lynn Fledderman of Ripley County and Frank Aaron Negangard of Dearborn County, reserves the right to argue for felony treatment and incarceration. Any sentence imposed shall be imminent.
On Oct. 20, 2011, a Jennings County Grand Jury indicted Marshall on 45 charges related to absentee voting irregularities. Three other charges were added later, bringing the total to 48 against Marshall.
The three final charges agreed to in the plea document involve the execution of three absentee ballot applications by Marshall during the 2010 election. Those were for Bernard Marshall, one of Mike Marshall's son; Rob Marshall, Mike Marshall's brother; and J. Kevin Phelps, Mike Marshall's former roommate.The Jennings Co. Democratic Chairman, not surprisingly, reacted with pleasure to the plea agreement and says she's looking forward to having Marshall's assistance in future campaigns after he was forced to sit out the 2012 campaign. "I know Mike as well as most people and I trust him," she said. "Without question, we will welcome Mike back to work for the party," said Karen Snyder.
The Republican Co. Chairman Mark Holwager is less charitable in his assessment of Marshall's plea agreement. He complains that Marshall had been getting by with vote fraud for years, and that the Democratic Party even purchased an ad in a local newspaper falsely claiming that a relative of one of those accused along with Marshall was being denied the right to vote by the local Republican Party, a move that prompted Republicans to call for the investigation.
"Any time a person steals a vote or disenfranchises a voter, he should get some time," Holwager opined. "He (Marshall) was entrusted with helping people and he took total advantage of that. I don't condone that from people in either party." . . .
Holwager said he hopes the outcomes of the three related cases will put an end to election improprieties that he contends has been common in Jennings County.
"This (election irregularities) has been going on for years and everyone knew it," he said. "It is time for that to stop."
Holwager said an advertisement in the Plain Dealer purchased by the Democratic Party in 2010 triggered the investigation. The ad featured a photo of John Cook holding a photograph of his son, Benjamin Cook, and claiming that the Republican Party was trying to keep the younger Cook from getting an absentee ballot. Benjamin Cook later told officials he never applied for an absentee ballot.
"If they weren't so brazen in that ad, this case probably wouldn't have developed," Holwager said. "That is why the local Democratic Party is in such disarray now. There are a lot of good Democrats who don't agree with what's been going on. Their party has some rebuilding to do."Marshall's co-defendants earlier received plea deals that allowed them to walk on lesser offenses without serving any jail time.
The same grand jury also handed down indictments against John W. Cook and Chris H. Marshall, Mike Marshall's son.
In an earlier agreement, Cook, 60, of North Vernon pleaded guilty to one count of perjury, a Class D felony. Webster sentenced him to 18 months with credit for four actual days with the balance suspended provided compliance with all probation terms for 12 months.
All the other grand jury indictments against Cook - three counts of perjury, three counts of voter fraud, two counts of forgery and one count of procuring and submitting a false voter registration application - were dismissed.
The case against Chris Marshall was resolved last September when Marshall pleaded guilty to aiding in deception in order to obtain property, a Class A misdemeanor and 11 felony charges were dismissed.The lesson learned for political operatives who regularly steal votes in Indiana elections is that the benefit of engaging in the criminal conduct far outweighs the potential punishment one might receive for engaging in the conduct.