Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plowman Guilty On Both Charges

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett speaking to reporters with lead attorney Richard Pilger
A 12-person jury deliberated for less than three hours today before delivering a guilty verdict on both charges against former IMPD officer and City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman, including bribery and extortion charges, associated with selling of influence activities that unfolded during a 5-month undercover sting operation by the FBI. The government contended Plowman had sought to use his power and influence to obtain favorable zoning approval on behalf of an undercover FBI agent posing as an out-of-state businessman looking to develop a strip club in Indianapolis. Plowman faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, although he is much more likely to receive a sentence closer to the minimum guidelines. The jurors declined to speak to reporters after being dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney.

At a press conference following the announcement of the verdict, U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett told reporters that "public office is not for sale" in Indiana. "No one is above the law," he said. "These words need to be tested and they were in this court." Hogsett said the government intends to hold Plowman accountable for selling influence and soliciting a bribe by seeking the maximum sentence allowed by law. He also had a message for other public officials. "If you are in public life or public office, you will be held accountable by this U.S. Attorney's Office." "It's a message for all elected officials throughout Indiana." Hogsett thanked the government's lead trial attorney, Richard Pilger, and Joe Vaughn, the criminal chief in his office, for their roles in prosecuting the government's case, as well as the FBI team that worked on the case with special mention to Agent Booz Moise. Hogsett would neither confirm nor deny there are ongoing public corruption investigations by his office when asked by reporters.

During a hearing following the announcement of the verdict, Plowman pleaded for mercy from Judge McKinney in allowing him to remain free on his own recognizance until his sentencing. Plowman told the court he is trying to support his family financially by working at a medical device firm in Greenwood, Indiana running a punch press, a job he has held for the last year. The government's lawyers opposed his release and requested his immediate detention, arguing that he had valuable training as an undercover officer producing aliases and false documents and had owned a large stash of high-powered weapons and ammunition. The government said Plowman had travelled to Costa Rica extensively during the years prior to his arrest and had the means to escape his punishment.

Judge McKinney sided with the arguments of Plowman's attorney, Jim Voyles, who noted that Plowman surrendered all of his weapons, had turned over his passport and complied with all of the terms set out by the court since his initial arraignment in September, 2010. Plowman told the court a probation officer had searched his home for weapons to confirm he no longer had any in his possession and that he had reported in to the government weekly since his initial arraignment as required. Judge McKinney subjected his release to home detention, making exceptions for him to travel to work, church, doctor's visits or other places consistent with the federal guidelines for home detention.

During the government's arguments, Pilger indicated that the minimum sentence for Plowman's offenses would be between 41 to 51 months in prison. He hinted that the minimum could be as high as 71 months, or six years, if the government elects to press for sentencing enhancement for what he described as "obstruction of justice" resulting from Plowman's testimony on his own behalf.


CircleCityScribe said...

Justice has been served.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Thanks for all of the reporting on the trial, Gary. One question - what did you refer to as '"obstruction of justice" resulting from Plowman's testimony on his own behalf'?

Gary R. Welsh said...

That's an argument the government makes for enhanced sentencing when you testify in your own defense and you are found guilty. Obviously, you have a constitutional right not to testify against yourself but if you make statements under oath that the government argues are untrue in an attempt to beat the wrap, that's what it considers obstruction of justice. I don't think judges are too keen on using that as a reason to enhance the sentence.