McQuaid reports that charges will be announced against Brizzi's former chief deputy, David Wyser, at a press conference this afternoon. Rumors surfaced several weeks back that Wyser had reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, which presumably would lead to charges against his former boss. McQuaid's report only mentions charges against Wyser and makes no mention of a plea agreement.
The IBJ is now reporting that Wyser is expected to plead guilty to the charges U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett will announce at a press conference this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and cooperate with an ongoing investigation.
Wyser is expected to plead guilty and cooperate with authorities as they continue an investigation led by the FBI, sources told IBJ. Brizzi is a target but has not been charged with any crime and has denied wrongdoing.An updated Star story on this afternoon's press conference with U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett confirms that Wyser has agreed to plead guilty to federal bribery charges in connection with accepting campaign contributions in exchange for seeking a sentence reduction for Willoughby. Wyser has agreed to cooperate with the feds in their ongoing investigation of public corruption in the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office. "For too long people in this city have had reason to doubt their government," U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said at the Monday press conference. "Justice is not for sale." The 53-year old Wyser could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the single felony count to which he pleaded guilty, along with a fine of up to $250,000. Wyser will also face a suspension of his license to practice law, if not outright disbarment.
Wyser, who was Brizzi's chief trial deputy, in 2010 ran an unsuccessful race for Hamilton County prosecutor after Brizzi opted against running for a third term in Marion County. Wyser has since served as a deputy prosecutor in Madison County.
The case against Wyser is expected to center around the early release of Paula Willoughby, who had been convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme. Her father, Harrison Epperly, made large political contributions to Brizzi and Wyser as their office was considering a potential sentence modification.
Willoughby was sentenced to 110 years in prison in 1991 after her husband was gunned down outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An appeal shrank the sentence to 70 years. The modification cut it to time served, and Willoughby was freed in July 2009.
Epperly gave at least $29,000 to Brizzi from 2006 to 2008, and also donated $2,500 to Wyser. The latter came in May 2009, a month before the filing of the sentence modification in court. Both Brizzi and Wyser later returned their donations, many of which came through Epperly’s company EMSP LLC . . .
And on a lower note, the pretend journalist tweets:
Here are five take-away questions from today's announcement:
1. Wyser worked under Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi as his chief trial deputy. Could Wyser have made a decision to file a motion to request a sentence reduction for Paula Willoughby without Brizzi's consent? Because Willoughby's father made at least $29,000 in campaign contributions to Brizzi after Wyser agreed to seek the sentence reduction in exchange for a much smaller campaign contribution for his Hamilton Co. Prosecutor's race, it seems unlikely Brizzi was not a party to the agreement.
2. Willoughby was represented by Jennifer Lukemeyer, a prominent criminal defense attorney with the law firm of Voyles Zahn & Paul. Could her client's father have reached an agreement with Wyser without involving Lukemeyer in the transaction? According to news reports, Lukemeyer hosted a fundraiser for Wyser's unsuccessful campaign for Hamilton Co. Prosecutor.
NOTE: Paragraph 7 of the indictment against Wyser states that "On or about May 29, 2009, David Wyser discussed receiving a campaign contribution from the father of the prisoner with the prisoner's attorney."
3. If Wyser admits that he was bribed based on today's announcement, why hasn't the person who paid the bribe to Wyser been charged yet?
4. Because the motion filed by the prosecutor's office in this case seeking a sentence reduction for the most serious crime one can commit was so highly unusual and required the approval of a judge, was the judge who signed off on the sentence reduction a party to any agreement reached by Wyser, Willoughby and/or her attorney?
5. Will today's announcement and the follow out going forward impact the petition for post-conviction relief filed by former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White? In White's petition, he argues that he received ineffective counsel from Brizzi during his Hamilton County trial during which he was found guilty of six felony charges arising out of the claim that he was illegally registered to vote at the time he sought the nomination for Secretary of State. White argues, in part, that Brizzi was distracted at the time of his trial because of a federal investigation that had been launched against Brizzi. White was also previously represented by Lukemeyer's law partner, Dennis Zahn, who White fired after he advised him to accept a plea deal with the special prosecutor that would force him to give up his office.
One last item of note I found on WTHR's website tonight:
Wyser appeared to be at his home in Geist Monday night, but did not answer the door. The home is for sale for $1.3 million.Umm, how does a person afford a $1.3 million home on a deputy prosecutor's salary?