Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hearing Officer Recommends One Year Suspension Without Automatic Right To Reinstatement For Attorney's Criticism Of Judge

The hearing officer presiding in the matter of the attorney disciplinary action of fellow attorney and blogger Paul Ogden has recommended to the Indiana Supreme Court that he be suspended from the practice of law for one year without right to automatic reinstatement for critical comments he made in a private e-mail communication about Hendricks Superior Court Judge Daniel Coleman's handling of a probate case in which Ogden represented one of the heirs of the estate. Hearing officer Robert York concluded that the comments made by Ogden were untrue and made without regard for the truth in violation of Rule 8.2(a) of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides that “A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.” York rejected Ogden's defense that his statements about Judge Coleman's handling of the estate case were protected by the First Amendment. Here are the pertinent free speech standards York says applies to attorney statements regarding a judge (i.e., the Dixon standards):
  • Lawyers are completely free to criticize the decisions of judges. As licensed professionals, they are not free to make recklessly false claims about a judge's integrity.  
  • The limits on professional speech by attorneys are not coextensive with the limits of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment protects the societal interest of enabling robust public discourse on issues of public concern, and its protections are therefore necessarily very broad. However, this interest must be balanced against the societal interest in the public's confidence in an impartial adjudicatory process, which unwarranted public accusations by an attorney against a judicial officer do nothing but weaken and erode.  
  • Attorneys are expected to exercise reasonable objectivity in their statements about judicial officers. We expect those who have been granted the special privilege of admission to the bar to bring reasonable objectivity to their statements about judicial officers; to rise above the raw emotions and accusations that impede rather than enhance the judicial process. This, we note, also has the incidental benefit of fostering effective advocacy for their clients. 
  • In determining whether an attorney violated the rule of professional conduct prohibiting knowingly false statements, or statements made with reckless disregard to falsity, concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office, a court must determine whether the attorney lacked any objectively reasonable basis for making the statement at issue, considering its nature and the context in which the statement was made The extent to which the attorney discloses accurate facts to support the statement is relevant to the determination of whether the attorney acted in reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity.
The comments made by Ogden in private e-mails to other parties involved in the case that Judge Coleman, the commission and York believed violated the rules of professional conduct boiled down to the following statements made by Ogden:
I’m not going to apologize for getting Judge Coleman off the case. The man should be   turned in to the disciplinary commission for how he handled this case. If this man had been in Marion County, with a real probate judge, the stuff that went on with this case . . .
No, Mary, what the “huge joke” is how a court allowed an estate worth millions of dollars to be opened as an unsupervised estate with an executor who wasn’t to inherit from the residue of the estate. Randy Carr was exactly correct to question whether the judge had a conflict. He should be brought up on disciplinary charges for how he handled this case.
It’s not exactly surprising that after five years Robert P. Carr’s estate is found to have gone from several hundred thousands of dollars (which was a gross underestimate) to nothing. Crown Plaza is part of the estate.
There’s no “witch hunt.” Just a desire that the estate be handled honestly and fairly, which it hasn’t been.  Unfortunately the time I got on the case, there was hardly anything left. The judge is the one who should get the lion share of the blame. 
If there were no shenanigans going on, then why oppose an outside accounting?

York's order states that the disciplinary standards for Ogden's violation "minimally provide for a public reprimand for Respondent's conduct," absent aggravating and mitigating factors. York found that despite having no previous disciplinary record Ogden had aggravated the circumstances of his case by "his multiple attacks on Judge Coleman and the personal representative, Robert, for which he remains unrepentant; his disrespectful letter to Judge Coleman; his ex parte communication with Judge McCarty, asserting he had a right to do so; and, his behavior during the disciplinary process." The ex parte communication involved a letter Ogden sent to all civil court judges in Marion County, as well as the county prosecutor and the state's attorney general pointing out a recent ruling in a Supreme Court case involving civil forfeitures providing that forfeited sums are to be paid into the common school fund. York acknowledged that Ogden had no civil forfeiture case pending before the courts but should have known that a member of the law firm where he worked had a pending case. Ogden had not copied the other parties on the letter he sent and did not believe the rules required him to do so since the manner in which funds are allocated once a forfeiture action is ordered is of no consequence to them. Nonetheless, York concluded his communication violated the rule against ex parte communications, although he recommended a sanction limited to a public reprimand for the violation.

York found no mitigating factors to support a lesser sanction other than his lack of prior disciplinary actions. York said he "struggled with determining Respondent's motive to act" in considering whether there was an absence of a dishonest or selfish motive." "Concluding that none of his misconduct would benefit Respondent’s client, Randy, or his future clients appearing before Judge Coleman, the only reasonable explanation is that Respondent was acting in what he perceives as his own personal interests," York wrote. "In short, Respondent believes he is a warrior tasked with righting wrongs within the legal system, and asserts without reasonable foundation that the Complaint is an attempt to stifle such activities," York concluded. "While Respondent’s goals may be admirable, there are reasonable alternatives available to him other than to conduct his mission activities in violation of the disciplinary rules," he added. York chastised Ogden for refusing to "recognize his wrongful conduct" or to "make good effort to rectify the consequences of his misconduct." York described Ogden's behavior during the disciplinary action as "obstreperous." York found that "other than his own self-serving statements" there was "no evidence" presented in mitigation based on his character or reputation.

Please click here to view a PDF copy of the order.

UPDATE: The Indiana Lawyer's Dave Stafford has posted a story on York's recommended sanctions against Ogden here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Seven Questions My Legislator Wants Me To Answer

It's that time of year when state lawmakers send out those colorful legislative surveys with their beautiful smiling picture staring at you and their name emblazoned in bold letters you can't miss and hopefully won't forget the next time you enter the voting booth, if you are among the minority of Americans who still participate in the "democratic" process. The lawmaker assures you that he wants to be your voice at the State House, and that your opinions are very important in guiding her votes on bills that are heard during the legislative session. It's all a bunch of baloney if you haven't already figured that out on your own, and it's hardly worth the expenditure of taxpayer dollars that are used to send out campaign literature masquerading as official government business.

I'm represented by Rep. Dan Forestal. I've met him, and he's a very friendly and nice guy. He's a Democrat and I'm a Republican. He's Catholic, and I'm Protestant. He's also a career government employee from a family of career government employees, the exact opposite of my family upbringing, so it's no surprise that he and I don't agree on many issues. Before Rep. Forestal got around to the questions he wanted me to answer, he took time to share his broad agenda for the session: "rebuild the middle class" by "creating stable, good-paying jobs" to reduce unemployment; increase the medial household income; and "focus on issues that matter to all Hoosiers." Alright, those are noble, lofty goals, but how does he plan to achieve them? The survey questions might shed some light on that.

Question 1. Would you support allowing local governments the ability to increase the minimum wage/benefits for workers in their area?

Both the federal and state minimum hourly wage rate is $7.25. Presumably, Rep. Forestal is suggesting a state law that would give local units of government the right to raise the minimum wage within their geographic boundaries to a rate that is higher than the applicable federal and state minimum wage rate. Rep. Forestal seems to like the home rule approach on a host of issues as you'll see from later questions in his survey. My answer to this question is an emphatic no. Raising minimum wage rates will not create more jobs or succeed in raising real wages. As long as we continue to enact federal trade policies supported by Democratic and Republican administrations alike that promote the transfer of American jobs to countries that pay slave wages to their workers through one-sided trade agreements, little is accomplished by raising minimum wage rates other than to eliminate jobs for those who most badly need them. If you want to affect wage rates, then talk to your congressman about enacting fair trade policies that don't punish American workers.

Question 2. Would you support a college tuition freeze at public universities in Indiana that would lock in a student's tuition rate over a four-year period?

That depends. I abhor the way public universities are currently funded. Public university administrators and educators are grossly overpaid in my opinion. If the legislature doesn't appropriate the amount of money the universities request, they just make up the difference through higher tuition rates. They need to live in the real world like the rest of us and learn to get by with less. The fact is that the cost of obtaining a higher education has been increasing well above the rate of inflation for decades, and most graduates can't find jobs that pay well enough to repay their student loans. A tuition freeze without reforms designed to force our public universities to provide higher education more economically and efficiently would be self-defeating. Tuition freeze is a good catch phrase, but the problem is complex and requires more than simple solutions that sound good at election time.

Question 3. Do you believe the operation of state employee pensions should be privatized, even if that means the unpredictability of the stock market could eliminate guaranteed returns?

If you're asking if I believe that defined pension benefits that allow government employees like yourself to retire 15 to 20 years before the rest of us with a generous life-time benefit should be phased out, the answer is an emphatic yes. I have no problem with the government matching contributions made by the employees to their retirement plans based on rules similar to those the rest of us must rely upon for our retirement benefits. In case Rep. Forestal doesn't know it, government pension benefits for state and local employees are already invested in the stock market. It's just that, unlike the rest of us, their retirement benefit is guaranteed regardless of the return on invested pension funds. If there's not enough in their retirement fund to pay their defined benefits, then all the rest of us are socked with higher taxes to pay for their retirement benefits. Join the rest of us in worrying about how we're going to pay for our retirement.

Question 4. Indiana law currently defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Should this definition be permanently added to our state's constitution?

Absolutely not. The current law banning same-sex marriages has already been upheld as constitutional by our state's Court of Appeals, and our state's Supreme Court has rarely struck down a law enacted by the General Assembly, no matter how unwise, on state constitutional grounds. A majority of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court have already strongly hinted in the U.S. v. Windsor case that state laws like Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act will have a difficult time passing federal constitutional muster in the future. A state constitutional amendment will not stop the state's law from being struck down on federal constitutional grounds and it strikes many as being motivated by mean-spiritedness and intolerance.

Question 5. Do you support allowing residents in central Indiana to determine for themselves through a referendum if they want to pay to expand mass transit?

Absolutely not. Your constituents have been paying a dedicated tax to support a mass transit system in Marion County (subsidized with additional federal and state tax dollars) for decades to which suburban residents have contributed nothing directly. Now you want your constituents to pay a second tax to expand the reach of mass transit into the surrounding suburban counties. If those suburban counties want to expand and connect mass transit in our county with their communities, then let them pay for it. If IndyGo needs more funding to operate a better mass transit system within Marion County, then tell Indianapolis' mayor and city-county council to stop giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to private developers to build luxury hotels, new housing and commercial development for downtown and handing out property tax abatements to their campaign contributors like candy.

Question 6. Several commercial buildings in our district are old, outdated and waste a great deal of energy. Do you support state incentives to create jobs by retrofitting old buildings to make them energy efficient, lowering energy bills and reducing our dependence on foreign oil?

No. The federal government has already wasted hundreds of billions of tax dollars on these green energy boondoggles that are nothing more than thinly-veiled efforts to give tax dollars away to businesses owned by connected political insiders who are stuffing money in the politicians' pockets in consideration for their support of these government handouts. We should allow market forces to drive energy efficiency.

Question 7. Would you support a local tax increase to put more law enforcement officers on the streets in our local neighborhoods?

Absolutely not. Been there, done that. Our local income taxes were raised 65% in 2007 to put more police officers on the street. We have fewer police officers today than we had before our taxes were raised. Your survey only gives me the options of selecting "yes" to "support a local tax increase to hire more officers," or "no" if "I believe there are enough officers currently on the streets." Those are false choices. Assuming there are insufficient funds to pay for public safety, it's not because we're being taxed too little. To the contrary, we're taxed plenty already. It's just that those responsible for allocating our tax dollars have chosen to divert more and more of the revenues to slush funds used to finance the private development projects of the politicians' favored campaign contributors, while many other favored businesses are afforded generous tax abatements, necessitating the need for the rest of us to pay higher taxes. So the correct answer to your survey is neither yes or no. It's called straightening out your priorities rather than blaming ordinary taxpayers for the problem.

Legislation Regulating Cell Phone Surveillance By Indiana Law Enforcement Not What It's Cracked Up To Be

I just had the chance to review legislation Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood) is offering in the form of SB 64 to limit Indiana law enforcement agency's access to information contained on a person's cell phone. Needless to say, I'm disappointed in its current form. It's completely useless in preventing law enforcement agencies from using software like the Stingray software used by the Indiana State Police to capture bulk cell phone data transmitted within a targeted geographic area without first obtaining a court-ordered search warrant.

The first part of the bill amends a section of the motor vehicle code that makes it unlawful to type, send and read text messages using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. This part of the bill prohibits a law enforcement officer from extracting information from a person's cell phone without the person's consent for purposes of enforcing the no texting while driving law unless the police officer has probable cause to believe the cell phone has been used to commit a crime, and the information is downloaded or extracted under a valid search warrant.

The second part of the bill amends a section of the criminal code setting forth the conditions under which a police officer may detain a person who the officer believes in good faith has committed an infraction or ordinance violation. A new section is added to this part of the criminal code that mirrors the first part of the bill amending the vehicle code to prohibit a police officer from downloading or extracting information from the cell phone of person who has been detained, without the person's consent, unless the police officer has probable cause to believe the cell phone has been used to commit a crime, and the police officer first obtains a valid search warrant before downloading or extracting information from the person's cell phone.

Class Action Attorneys Piling On Angie's List

It looks like there are now about six law firms that have filed class action shareholder lawsuits against Indianapolis-based Angie's List. All of the lawsuits are essentially based on the same claims: the company relied on the use of free memberships to artificially boost subscription numbers reported to investors; the company now relies on the majority of its revenues from the service provider businesses for which it supposedly provides objective reviews from its consumer members; and that it doesn't vet the service providers promoted on its website, questioning the company's website's value to members.

Seeking Alpha's Michael Sacerdote estimates that, in the worst case scenario, the total damages that could be awarded to affected investors is a little more than $1 billion, more than enough to bankrupt the company. Nonetheless, as class action suits go, Sacerdote estimates that the risk of the lawsuits collectively bankrupting the company are only about 7.7%. Based on past history, it's almost certain that no judgment in the $1 billion range would ever be obtained against the company. Less than one-half of one percent of class action shareholder suits go to trial according to Sacerdote. The average settlement is about $36 million compared to a median settlement amount of $12 million.

Sacerdote puts Angie's List odds at winning a dismissal of the suits at 50%, thereby only incurring the attorney's fees it spends defending the lawsuits. Of the remaining 50% of the cases, about half settle for the median settlement amount or less. About 25% of the cases are settled for more than the median settlement amount, which could be enough to sink the company he says; however, he notes that insurance may cover at least some of the potential liability. There's also risk that the negative publicity from the lawsuits will become very distractive for the company's leadership and dissuade investors from investing in the company. So far, the lawsuits have had minimal impact on the price of Angie's List stock, which has fallen only marginally over the past week.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Indianapolis Homicide Rate Tops 140

There were three homicides in Indianapolis yesterday alone in case you didn't notice, bringing the total for the year to 143. IMPD will claim the number is much lower than that, but if you calculate the homicide rate the way it used to be calculated before IMPD implemented the Frank Straub crime statistic gathering system (as taught to him by NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton) that magically makes crime data appear rosier than it really is, that's the number you will get. It's the highest number of homicides since the city recorded 150 in 2006.

By the way, Straub's old boss Bill Bratton is returning as police commissioner of New York City, and his old counter-intelligence buddy John Miller from the FBI, who's been pretending to be a journalist at CBS News for the past several years while working for the CIA, is joining him at NYPD. The return of these two treacherous men to NYPD could signal the planning of another major false flag event in the Big Apple like 9/11.  You may recall that Straub rewarded Bratton's Altegrity Solutions after he recommended him for the job as Indy's Public Safety Director with a useless contract to flatter Straub with a glowing 49-page report on the police accountability measures he implemented at IMPD that cost taxpayers $71,000.

UPDATE: WRTV's Chris Proffitt puts Indy's homicide rate into perspective: it's higher than Chicago's rate.
An RTV6 analysis of the city's 2013 murder rate compared to Chicago's shows that Indy has seen approximately 10 percent more homicides per capita than the Windy City.
Chicago, with a population of more than 2.7 million, has reported 409 murders this year, according to www.DNAinfo.com, which tracks the city's crime rate. That puts it at roughly 15.1 murders per 100,000 residents.
Indianapolis, by comparison, has seen 140 homicides to its 822,000 citizens – a murder rate of 17 per 100,000 people.
It's also the first time the city has broken 100 murders since 2008.

IMPD officially acknowledges that 124 homicides have occurred this year, twenty less than the number recorded by Bart Lies. It categorizes another 16 deaths as "justifiable" as the reason for not counting them as homicides. Bart Lies has increased its number for the year to 144, adding an additional homicide after this post was first published.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs Dies At 81

Former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs (D) passed away today at the age of 81. He represented Indiana's former 10th and 11th congressional districts over a span of three decades. He lost only one election in 1972 to former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut. Despite his long tenure in the House, he never accomplished much legislatively and was not widely respected by his colleagues, even if they enjoyed his humor. Upon his retirement in 1996, Jacobs worked very hard to ensure that Center Township Trustee Julia Carson defeated Ann DeLaney in the Democratic primary. When Carson died in 2007, Jacobs worked very hard to ensure that her grandson, Andre Carson (pictured above with Jacobs), succeeded her in Congress when he faced a very crowded field of Democratic opponents vying to succeed her. Jacobs had three wives, including his current wife, Kim Hood, a former news anchor for WRTV WTHR. Jacobs' fist wife was Kay Welsh, daughter of former Gov. Matt Welsh. He was also married for a short while to Martha Keys, a former U.S. Representative from Kansas. He is survived by two sons from his marriage with Hood, Andy Jabobs and Steven Jacobs. Gov. Mike Pence released the following statement on Jacobs' passing:
“Andy Jacobs, Jr.'s contributions to the life of our state and nation are incalculable and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss. Andy Jacobs personified the kind of principled and compassionate leadership that Hoosiers most admire and he will be greatly missed. 
Before serving a long and illustrious career as a member of the United States House of Representatives, Andy  Jacobs served his nation in the United States Marine Corps as a combat infantryman.  Upon his return from military service, he dedicated the next three decades of his life to public service. Andy Jacobs served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives in 1959-1960. Later, he was elected to represent Indiana’s Tenth Congressional District in 1964, serving in the same Indianapolis Congressional seat held by his father in 1948-1950 During his early years in Congress, Representative Jacobs helped to write the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Jacobs was known for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of America’s senior citizens by enhancing the Social Security Administration and the Medicare program
Throughout his career, Representative Jacobs was recognized by colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a champion for his principles and a man of impeccable character. When Representative Jacobs retired from Congress in 1997, he left a legacy of leadership and a reputation for integrity among his peers and the people that he served. 
On behalf of my entire family, I express our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family, his wife Kim, and to his two sons during this difficult time. God bless you, Andy Jacobs. Your compassion and servant leadership left Indiana and our nation better for you having been here.  You will be sorely missed and your many contributions to Indiana will be remembered always.”
It's kind of odd that Pence beat U.S. Rep. Carson to the punch in releasing a statement on Jacobs' passing, particularly considering their close "family" relationship. Nothing on Carson's Twitter account hours after other news outlets broke the news of his passing. Mayor Greg Ballard tweeted on his account two hours ago, "Indy has lost one of its greatest champions." I would also correct Gov. Pence's assertion that Jacobs helped write the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That's a total fabrication. He was a freshman member of the Judiciary Committee at the time. Yes, he voted for the legislation, but he played no key role in its passage whatsoever, and he certainly had no hand in writing it. In honoring Jacobs with the naming of a post office in Indianapolis after him, the late Rep. Julia Carson accurately described his role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act as recorded in the Congressional Record: "Congressman Jacobs was in fact a member of the Committee on the Judiciary that helped to write the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, and I know a lot of my colleagues in Congress would like to be reminded that Andy Jacobs is the one that sponsored legislation that made Father's Day a legal holiday."

UPDATE: Rep. Carson has now commented on Jacobs' passing via Twitter:
With Andy Jacobs' passing, our nation lost a man who was courageous, both in his service as a Marine in Korea, and in public life.
Andy Jacobs was a selfless public servant, who never cared about station or the trappings of his office.
The dumbass award in the media goes to WTHR's Kevin Rader, who tweeted this absurd observation:
If Indiana were to have a Mt Rushmore you could make a solid case for Andy Jacobs because of his work on civil rights.
This is how useless so-called reporters in this country have become.  Rader obviously knows nothing other than how to regurgitate talking points that are handed to him by someone with an agenda. "Work on civil rights?" Please. This is the same reporter who accepted a free trip to Turkey from a lobbyist for the Gulen movement.

Carson has now released a longer statement on Jacobs' death, including the following excerpts describing Jacobs as "family":
Congressman Jacobs was family. He served as an invaluable mentor and dear friend to my grandmother, Julia Carson, who he hired to work in his Indianapolis congressional office in 1965. It was Andy’s faith and encouragement that inspired my grandmother to run for state representative in 1972, and his support of her never wavered. 
At an early age, Andy also took an interest in me as well and imparted wisdom while serving as a role model. He continued as a valued mentor, even long after he left office.

Over 100 Cars Stolen In Indianapolis During The Past Week

This crime statistic is staggering. IMPD tells WRTV that 126 cars were stolen during the week of Christmas, often because their owners left them idling with the keys in the ignition while the car was warming up. That's closer to the number of stolen cars one would expect to be reported during the entire year, not in a single week. According to the report, only six of the stolen cars have been recovered so far.

Three-Judge Panel Recommends Removing Judge Kim Brown From Office For Misconduct

The Star is reporting that a three judge panel of masters has recommended to the Indiana Supreme Court that Marion Superior Court Judge Kim Brown be removed from office, an extraordinary step rarely utilized in disciplining a judge. The panel conducted a 7-day trial in November at which it heard evidence concerning 47 counts of misconduct brought in a complaint against her by the state's judicial qualifications commission. Judge Brown has not been accused of breaking the law; rather the charges centered on the performance of her job, including "dereliction of duty, delaying the release of at least nine defendants from jail, failing to train or supervise court employees, creating a hostile environment for staff and attorneys and failing to properly complete paperwork."

Judge Brown contested the charges at the 7-day trial but later hired new counsel and submitted a public apology and agreed to accept a suspension of 60 days, which was more in line with the punishment handed down by the Supreme Court in other cases involving judicial misconduct in the recent past. The commission asked the Supreme Court to disregard Judge Brown's offer because it was "too little, too late." The Indiana Law Blog has posted a copy of the 107-page findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommended sanction filed by the panel of masters with the Supreme Court, which you can access by clicking here.

It's rather ironic that the state's attorney disciplinary commission is asking that fellow blogger and attorney Paul Ogden be suspended for one year for complaining in a private e-mail about a judge in Hendricks County who permitted an estate case to drag on for years, and who was eventually removed from the case pursuant to the lazy judge rule. Yet when attorneys and court staff complain about Judge Brown's performance and conduct, the judicial qualifications commission seeks the most severe of punishments for the judge. The two judicial bodies seem to be sending conflicting messages.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hamilton County Judge Denies Charlie White's Motion For Post-Conviction Relief Based On Ineffective Counsel

Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Pfleging issued an order on December 23, two days before Christmas, denying former Secretary of State Charlie White's petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective counsel he argues that he received from Carl Brizzi, who failed to put on a defense during a jury trial in 2012 that found him guilty on six of seven vote fraud-related charges special prosecutors brought against him. Judge Pfleging had earlier denied a number of arguments White had made for a new trial, which remain ripe for review at the appellate court level, in addition to the ineffective counsel argument. Those include the following:
  • The fact that the state brought criminal charges against him to remove him from office instead of a quo warranto action;
  • The fact that White was a de facto elected official the state could not have charged him with theft for drawing his salary as a duly-elected town council member in Fishers;
  • Jurors were provided an erroneous legal definition of "residency" for voting purposes in determining whether he had improperly registered and voted in the wrong precinct in a single election;
  • Jurors were provided erroneous jury instructions when the trial judge allowed a statute dealing with vote fraud that was clearly written to apply only in the plural to be applied singularly to convict White.
  • The judge erred in allowing White to be convicted twice for the same offense rather than merging the offenses into a single offense as required by law; and
  • White's equal protection rights were denied when he was convicted of a novel interpretation of Indiana's voter fraud laws that essentially created a class of one crime upon which the law was applied to him to obtain felony convictions that would force his removal him from office. 
The Indiana Law Blog has provided a copy of Judge Pfleging's Order, which you can view here. The Order essentially rubber stamps the views of special prosecutors Dan Sigler and John Dowd with respect to White's allegations that Brizzi provided ineffective counsel during his trial. Most objective legal observers agree that Brizz's representation of White during the trial was a total farce. Judge Pfleging saw no prejudice resulting from Brizzi's decision during voir dire to ask jurors if they agreed jury nullification was appropriate in a case involving a charges for which a prosecutor rarely, if ever, prosecutes a person for a technical violation of the law, implying to prospective jurors that White had violated the laws for which he had been charged. Pfleging reasoned that Brizzi didn't argue the inappropriate defense during the trial once the jurors were seated or during closing argument.

Brizzi refused to put on a defense because he believed that the state had failed to prove any of the charges against White. White claimed that Brizzi sprung that defense strategy on him at the last minute without discussing it with him. Super Bowl weekend in Indianapolis was also fast approaching at that point, although I'm sure that Brizzi's desire to take part in the big party downtown had nothing to do with his decision not to put on a case. Jurors in the case couldn't be put up at a hotel for sequestration because all area hotel rooms were booked up with out-of-town visitors attending the Super Bowl game Sunday night. They were instructed to continue deliberating into the wee hours of that weekend's Saturday after the case went to the jury shortly after mid-day on Friday, an instruction with which the trial court judge indicated the jurors did not object.

Brizzi mistakenly believed that all of the documentary evidence to which the parties had stipulated prior to trial that White had intended to offer to prove that he resided for voting registration purposes at his ex-wife's home at the time he registered to vote and cast a single ballot in one election using that registered voting address had actually been tendered at trial even though he never tendered any of the evidence during trial. In finding that Brizzi did not provide ineffective counsel, Judge Pfleging's findings of fact in his Order makes no mention of that glaring omission on Brizzi's part. Judge Pfleging's order draws negative inferences about virtually every potential witness Brizzi failed to call, including those who testified at the state Recount Commission hearing on White's behalf, which concluded that White had not violated Indiana's vote fraud statutes for purposes of qualifying as a candidate for office in 2010. In castigating White's expert GPS witness, the Order makes no issue of the substance of what his testimony would have been, which if offered, would have tended to prove White primarily resided at his ex-wife's home during the time in question. It should be pointed out that Judge Pfleging's daughter works at the same law firm that is defending Brizzi in the malpractice lawsuit White has filed against his former trial counsel. Judge Pfleging offered to recuse himself from hearing White's post-conviction relief petition due to the appearance of a conflict of interest but White's attorney waived his recusal offer.

White is going forward with his appeal to the Court of Appeals. That prospect should make many Republican and Democratic officials across the state of Indiana very uneasy if the convictions against White stand. Dozens and dozens of elected officials and candidates have handled their voting registration and balloting in the past based upon the same laws and court opinions upon which White relied but which this lone trial court in Hamilton County rejected in toto. White stands alone as the only candidate for office in the state's modern history to which a harsh, exacting residency standard has been applied for voting purposes. If the Charlie White standard had been applied to Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, both would have faced multiple felony charges. In order to uphold the convictions against White, the appeals court will have to stand Indiana residency and vote fraud laws on their head, which in my opinion is precisely what these over zealous special prosecutors and the trial court permitted to happen in that courtroom in Hamilton County nearly two years ago.

UPDATE: WISH-TV's political reporter Jim Shella proves once again why he's nothing but a stooge for the corrupt insiders who run this state. Here's his take on the denial of White's PCR motion:
Former Secretary of State Charlie White has lost his bid for a new trial.  A Hamilton County judge rejected his argument that Carl Brizzi was incompetent as a defense attorney.
Let’s review:
White lied to voters about where he lived and where he voted.  He was convicted of voter fraud.  He was thrown out of office.
He blamed Brizzi.  He paid another attorney to pursue post conviction relief.  He lost.
Now Charlie White says he will appeal his conviction.
That’s a small government Republican tying up our court system with frivolous pleadings.
Did I mention that White has a law degree of his own?
Wouldn’t his time be better spent finding a new career?
This is the same reporter who personally attacked those who questioned the legality of Richard Lugar registering to vote and repeatedly casting a vote from a home in Indianapolis which he had sold nearly 36 years earlier. Yet he thinks it's perfectly normal for a candidate between homes and marriages to be charged and convicted of multiple felonies for casting a single ballot in a single election using his ex-wife's home as his residence.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Class Action Lawsuit Could Spell Big Trouble For Angie's List

A class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana charges key officers of Angie's List of defrauding investors who purchased stock in the company between between February 14, 2013 and October 23, 2013 by issuing  materially false and misleading statements regarding the strength of the company’s business model and its financial performance and future prospects and failed to disclose adverse effects on the company's prospects of becoming profitable. Named in the lawsuit are the company's CEO, William Oesterle, the company's co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Angie Hicks Bowman, current and past CFOs Charles Hundt and Robert Millard, and Thapur Manu, the recently-terminated Chief Information Officer.

The serious allegations contained in the lawsuit call into question the legitimacy of the subscription-based reviews of local service providers on the company's website because of its shifting business model, which increasingly relies on revenues it now derives from referral fees to those same service providers. According to the lawsuit, Angie's List this year began relying on offering free membership subscriptions in order to artificially boost the number of subscribers in order to mislead investors. This helped boost the price of the stock significantly during the period in question. Oesterle and the other officers cashed out many shares they owned during this period for a handsome profit. Ooesterle sold 486,400 shares of stock for more than $10.3 million, while the other officers collectively sold about $3 million of their personally-held shares of common stock "to the unsuspecting public at fraud-inflated prices."

At the same time, the company's assertion that "You can't pay to be on Angie's List" appears dubious based on the company's growing reliance on revenues it derives from service providers. The company has increasingly started relying on fees it collects from service providers (more than half of its revenues) in consideration for listing them more prominently on the company's website than service providers which don't pay the additional fees. In some instances, the lawsuit alleges that Angie's List "sometimes charges service providers hundreds of dollars for 'hot leads.'" Those costs are "passed along to . . . subscribers, increasing the prices consumers were paying and decreasing the benefit to them of using the website," the lawsuit alleges.

The entire legitimacy of the company's business model for service providers rated on its website is "called into question" as a result of the company "forcing service providers to pay high fees to be listed as highly rated service providers" the lawsuit contends. If service providers don't ante up and pay the high fees, they won't get customer referrals from the company's website. Even worse, the lawsuit claims that Angie's List  does not vet service providers listed and recommended on its website, "either for qualifications or for safety," which caused many subscribers to question the website's value and made them less willing to pay the subscription fees. The lawsuit claims the company's officers "lacked a reasonable basis" for positive statements they made to investors about the company's business model and its financial prospects.

Angie's List's stock price closed yesterday at $15.03 per share. The company's stock reached a high of $28.32 earlier this year before starting to slide the second half of this year. The stock has traded as low as $11.14 this year. After nearly 20 years in business, the company has yet to turn a profit during a single fiscal year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Park Tudor Earned A "D" Last Year

It's the most expensive private schools in the state of Indiana where some of the wealthiest and most influential residents in the Indianapolis area send their children. So why did Park Tudor earn a "D" on recent report cards issued by the Indiana Department of Education to the state's schools? According to the Chalkbeat blog, the school's officials blame the poor grade on error.
Neal pointed to Park Tudor, an expensive and highly regarded private school in Indianapolis, which received a D grade despite 100 percent of its graduates going on to college and a slew of academic honors, as another example of a strange report card result.
Park Tudor spokeswoman Cathy Chapelle said its grade, too, was in error.
“The assessment grade reflects issues of reporting and communication, not of academic performance,” Chapelle said in a statement. “In fact, our academic standards and results are among the highest in the state. In 2013 alone, 201 Park Tudor students in grades 9-12 took a total of 490 Advanced Placement exams; 62% of the exams earned a score of 4 or 5 and over 87% earned a score of 3 or higher.”
Chapelle did not elaborate on what the school meant by “reporting and communication” or how it could have influenced Park Tudor’s grade.
If schools like Christel House and Park Tudor decide to appeal to the state board, would they prevail? Elsener was not encouraging, suggesting the best strategy might be just to move on.
“I think I’d say this year was a hiccup,” he said. “You have to decide where to put your best investment of time.”
Parents who send their children to Park Tudor pay tuition ranging from $15,330 to $18,830 per school year. Damn. It costs a hell of a lot of money to be an elitist. About one-third of the students receive financial assistance. The average financial assistance award is $9,000.

Indiana Court Of Appeals: Gender Bending Doesn't Void Marriage In Indiana

What's the status of a marriage entered into between a man and a woman in Indiana after one of the partners to the marriage changes genders? The answer may surprise you. According to an Indiana Court of Appeals' decision picked up on by the Indiana Law Blog this past week, the marriage remains valid and, unlike other same-sex married couples, the two spouses can petition in state court for dissolution of their marriage.

A trial court in Monroe County in In Re The Marriage of Melanie Davis and Angela Summers after originally granting a provisional order concerning the custody of the couple's child later determined that the marriage became void under Indiana law once David Summers ceased being a male and became Melanie Davis after changing the gender on his birth certificate. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, finding that there is nothing in Indiana law that permits a legal marriage to be voided after one of the parties to the marriage changes gender, effectively making it a same-sex marriage.

David Summers had been diagnosed with gender disorder after the couple's marriage in 1999 and the birth of their only child. He had his name legally changed to Melanie Davis in Marion Circuit Court in 2005, the same court from which he obtained an order changing the gender on his birth certificate from male to female three years later. The trial court found that the marriage became void when the circuit court ordered the gender change on Davis' birth certificate. A footnote in the Court of Appeals' decision notes that the decision on whether the Marion Circuit Court acted within the law in issuing an order to change the gender on Davis' birth certificate was not before the court in this case. Davis filed for divorce four years after the change in gender on her birth certificate and seven years after her change in name. The trial court, in denying the petition for dissolution petition, found that because the marriage became void once both parties became female, it lacked jurisdiction to dissolve it.

The trial court relied on the second part of Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, which provides that "a marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized." The Court of Appeals, rejected this reading of the statute, holding that it does not void a marriage that was initially valid in Indiana "simply because one of the parties to the marriage has changed his or her gender."
To conclude that the parties' marriage somehow became void when the gender was changed on Davis' birth certificate would permit David to effectively abandon her own child, even though the parties were validly married at the time of the child's birth and even though Davis is the child's father. It would also leave the parties' child without the protection afforded by Indiana's dissolution statutes with regard to parenting time and child support.
In summary, under the specific facts and circumstances before us in this case, a marriage between a man and a woman that was valid when it was entered into does not automatically become void when one of the parties has his or her birth certificate amended to indicate a change of gender. The statute prohibiting same-sex marriages does not apply to the particular set of circumstances in this case because the parties did not enter into a same-sex marriage in Indiana or into a same-sex marriage that was solemnized in another state. In addition, a marriage such as the one at issue here is not listed among those marriages declared void ab initio under applicable Indiana statutes, and would be improper to interpret the statute otherwise. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Big Surprise, Pay-To-Play Consultant Picks Airport Site As Most Suited Site For Criminal Justice Complex

Only in the corrupt pay-to-play world in which the City of Indianapolis conducts business could a consultant produce at taxpayers' expense a report claiming that the most suited site for building a half-billion dollar criminal justice complex would be next to the Indianapolis International Airport right on the county line on the far west side next to Hendricks County. That's precisely what the Star's Jon Murray is reporting that a useless report prepared by CB Richard Ellis is recommending.
That site is on the northwest corner of airport property — a stone’s throw from the Hendricks County line.
Although it is designated as the “preferred site,” scoring highest among 14 properties considered in a preliminary evaluation by real estate firm CBRE, the airport location already has critics.
Chief among them are several Marion Superior Court judges.
In short, they say it’s too far from Downtown and too inaccessible by existing public transit. Judge Mark Stoner, who presides over a major-felony court, envisions the danger posed by victims, witnesses, defendants and jurors from overlapping cases riding in the same bus to the outlying airport site from transfer points Downtown.
There is much to like in an airport site because the land already is tax-exempt and readily available, but Stoner says another issue should take precedence.
“This is a constitutional issue for us,” Stoner said. It’s about “the public’s right to have ready access to the court system.”
Other judges who have voiced worry about the airport site include Becky Pierson-Treacy, James Osborn and Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg.
As soon as Mayor Greg Ballard recently announced this plan to rely entirely on a private developer to build, operate and maintain a massive new criminal justice system that envisioned moving the entire criminal justice apparatus out of downtown Indianapolis to a new location, I knew that this project was being driven entirely by one law firm that controls every major decision made in the mayor's office and one private contractor with whom Sheriff John Layton has become a bit too cozy.

Sheriff Layton let the cat out of the bag when he mouthed off to reporters that a site near the airport was preferable because it would make it more accessible for federal inmates who the federal government would pay to house at the jail, which could help offset costs for running the jail. The current private operator of Marion Co. Jail II, Corrections Corporation of America, which is expected to bid on the project, currently houses some federal inmates and immigration detainees at that jail under contract with the feds. Barnes & Thornburg, which is paid to advise Mayor Ballard and for all practical purposes exercises total control over his administration, also represents CCA regarding its current contract with the county to operate Jail II.

It is sickening beyond belief that our taxpayer dollars were used to pay money to a politically-connected consultant to produce a bogus report to stack the deck in favor of the private developer the downtown mafia has already decided behind closed doors is going to win this half-billion dollar project. This is the same consultant that the City agreed to pay at least a million bucks to assist it in relocating a downtown fire station, IFD headquarters and the Firefighter's Credit Union from their current location on Mass Avenue. The consultant came up with a site in Lockerbie owned by developer Joe Whitsett, who had previously committed to the neighborhood to build a suitable residential development on the parcel. The neighborhood exploded in outrage upon learning of the change in plans, and it was clear during a meeting with the neighborhood that this high-paid consultant had performed zero due diligence in picking that site other than to accommodate a backroom deal the Mayor's Office was trying to make with the developer regardless of what the neighborhood thought.

After much teeth gnashing, the Mayor's Office moved to Plan B to relocate the IFD headquarters and fire station to the site of the Red Cross, which had to be paid to relocate to a new site on Meridian Street, and the credit union had to be paid to relocate to another site near College and Mass Avenue, a move that will cost taxpayers more than double the original projected costs, keeping in mind the only reason for the deal in the first place was to free up a prime piece of land on Mass Ave for development by another pay-to-play developer to be partially funded by the city's taxpayers. None of these deals have anything to do with what's in the best interest of the public; they're always about what's going to make the most money for the pay-to-play developers who've paid off the politicians.

By moving the criminal justice complex out of downtown, the Mayor's Office will kill four birds with one stone. With the completion of the Eskanazi Hospital project, the pay-to-play contractors are demanding a large new public works project to perpetuate their racket. The project itself can be rigged to favor the private developer the Mayor's Office has already decided in consultation with the law firm client that is driving the project. The large payments to be made for decades to come assures a steady stream of money flowing into the downtown racket that benefits from the project. By moving the criminal justice complex outside of downtown, prime parcels of land housing the two jails and the Sheriff's Department can be redeveloped, naturally with taxpayer subsidies, to make even more money for the pay-to-play developers. And finally, by moving the criminal justice system out of the downtown area, the downtown mafia hopes that it can clear out what it views as the blight created by low-income whites and minorities who make up a disproportionate share of criminal offenders.

Mayor Ballard claims that the reason it makes sense to rely on a private developer to build, operate and maintain the new criminal justice system is because it can be accomplished without raising taxes. That's a claim that is not sustainable over time because anyone with a brain can figure out that undertaking the project in this fashion will cost taxpayers a lot more money over time. Radio talk show host Amos Brown did some simple math in his latest column to make this point:
Two years ago, a group analyzed what it would take to build a facility like this and they came up with an outrageous estimate of $500 million. Lucas Oil Stadium cost $750 million. So do they want us to believe this combination of courtrooms, jails and office space would cost almost as much as that stadium?
On “Afternoons with Amos,” Lotter said the sheriff and other government agencies currently spend some $19 million yearly on rent. Over a 30-year lease that comes to some $570 million.
But if the cost of constructing the new justice center is $500 million, that doesn’t include interest payments on the debt the private entity would have to obtain to build the facility. And it doesn’t include the 15 to 20 percent profit margin the private developer would charge to make their money on the deal.
Lotter’s rent projections are far too low.
Brown also raises in his column a valid concern about the negative economic impact moving the entire criminal justice complex out of downtown will have on area businesses. All the freed up space in the City-County Building will allow other employees to be consolidated into the building, resulting in more vacant commercial property downtown, which already has a high vacancy rate of 20%. Law firms, bail bond companies and other businesses located downtown only because that's where the criminal justice complex is currently located might also relocate out of downtown if the criminal justice complex is no longer located there. And of course, a central location for the criminal justice system makes it the best location for those it serves, but that's the least of the concerns of those pushing this project for their own self-serving ends.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Department Of Education Releases A To F Grades For State's Schools

The Department of Education released the A to F accountability grades for the state's schools today for the 2012-13 school year, and the grades indicate that statewide schools are performing better than the previous year. More than two-thirds (67%) of the state's schools received an A or B grade. That's up from 62% the previous school year. Even better, the percentage of schools earning a D or F grade fell from 20% to 16%. “These grades are a credit to the hard work of students, teachers, and families,” said Sarah O’Brien, District 4 representative to the board.  “It’s encouraging to see our schools make continued gains in student academic performance.”

Radio talk show host Amos Brown broke down the numbers for Indianapolis schools and, like the statewide results, he found improvement in the overall grades, although the city's charter schools fared worse than the previous year. Brown found 28 schools in the city receiving a failing grade, which is down from 36 the previous year. The number of failing charter schools in the city jumped to 7 from 4. The list of failing charter schools includes the Christel House Academy, which was the source of controversy that led to former Supt. of Education Tony Bennett's ouster from his new job in charge of Florida's schools after it was revealed that he changed last year's grading to improve the schools grade from a "C" to an "A." The Gulen-affiliated Indiana Math & Science Academy received a failing grade compared to the "B" grade it earned the previous school year.

Overall, six charter schools earned an "A" compared to fourteen earning a "D" (7) or "F"(7). Four of the failing charter schools in Indianapolis includes those administered by the Mayor's Office, while two are administered by Ball State University. Overall, six of the charter schools administered by the Mayor's Office earned an "A" compared to eight that earned a "D" or "F." Ball State's best charter school only earned a "C", while three earned a "D" in addition to the two earning an "F." Brown also found that the failing IPS schools taken over by Mayor Greg Ballard's Charter School Office (Arlington, Howe, Manuel and Emma Donnan) all received failing grades.

According to Chalkbeat, Christel Academy officials are blaming testing errors last spring for the school's failing grade this year. CEO Carey Dahncke claimed that 90% of the students who passed state tests the previous year but failed the most recent test were among the students bounced offline while the test was being administered. “That was the common element,” he said. “It is due to the testing disruptions.” The school's appeal of its failing grade was turned down by the state. Click here to use Chalkbeat's search engine to find out how schools across the state fared.

Ballard Blames Council For City's Lower Bond Rating

This week, S&P lowered the City of Indianapolis' bond rating two notches from AAA to AA. If you read the rating announcement, you understand why the rating was lowered. Firstly, S&P has adopted new standards for analyzing GO bond ratings for municipalities. Applying the new standards, the rating agency found the debt level being carried by the city was too high based on available revenues to pay its debt obligations.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Mayor Ballard reacted to the lowered bond rating by blaming the Democratic-controlled council for its failure to raise property taxes by eliminating the homestead property tax credit, which would have made a negligible difference in the city's financial situation. To piece together its latest budget for 2014, the city is tapping one-time sources to balance the budget.

What Ballard doesn't explain, which is largely the reason the city's bond rating has been lowered, is that he has continued the municipal financing scheme of expanding the areas of the city's tax base that are within a TIF district, thereby starving other municipal services of funding needed for basic operations. The growing tax revenues diverted into the TIF districts, now approaching 15% of the property tax base, are used to leverage more borrowing to finance more publicly-subsidized private development undertaken by contributors to Mayor Ballard's campaign committee. City-County Council President Maggie Lewis released a statement in response to Mayor Ballard's criticism of the council, which appears to recognize the role TIFs have played in worsening the city's credit worthiness.
“We are disappointed that Mayor Ballard would lay the blame for city’s credit rating downgrade at the feet of the City-County Council, particularly after we worked so closely with him to craft a budget that passed with bipartisan support.  For the last six years, Mayor Ballard has neglected to adequately finance and staff public safety in our city, and our citizens have been forced to deal with the consequences of his inaction every day.  Protecting our citizens is our number one priority, and Mayor Ballard signed off on this bipartisan plan with the 2014 budget.  Rather than revise the past, I, along with other Councillors, have been working on a new set of polices that will make the use of Tax Increment Financing in our city more transparent, disciplined, and responsible, as well as leading a study commission to identify public safety funding and staffing needs for the long term.   Working together on these kind of initiatives is the way forward.” 
I wish Lewis had put her words to action when Councilor Brian Mahern was pushing for TIF reforms and to put a break on establishing even more TIF districts after the council went to the trouble of having a report prepared that demonstrated the long-term havoc TIF districts were wreaking on the city's finances. If the council had listened to him, it would have never expanded the downtown TIF district and created the near-northside TIF district that ripped a new, giant-sized hole in the city's property tax base.

Citizens Energy CEO Earns Nearly $2 Million While Nonprofit Loses More Than $80 Million

It's supposed to operate as a nonprofit, public benefit corporation with a mission of providing public utilities to Indianapolis' citizens at an affordable cost, but Citizens Energy operates no differently than a fat-cat, privately-owned public utility looking to stiff utility consumers at every turn. The IBJ reports that Citizens Energy will report a loss of $81.3 million during its 2013 fiscal year despite seeing its operating revenue jump 15% to $711.5 million, but its CEO Carey Lykins will still earn nearly $2 million, down from the nearly $3 million he earned last year.

At least half of Citizens Energy's losses this year are attributable to a bad investment it made in ProLiance Energy, which it sold off for a huge loss this year. The utility is now seeking authorization from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to stick its utility consumers with yet another 13.3% increase in water rates and 21.6% increase in stormwater rates. These increases are, in effect, attributable to the overpayment Citizens Energy made to the City of Indianapolis to purchase the water and sewer utilities so that Mayor Greg Ballard would a have a half billion dollar pot to distribute to the pay-to-play contractors stuffing money in his pockets.

The City of Indianapolis screwed over the public more than a decade ago when it allowed the Indianapolis Water Company to be sold off to NiSource instead of Citizens Energy, which then ran the utility into the ground while selling off its most profitable assets before selling it back to the City of Indianapolis instead of Citizens Energy as required by state law for a premium, which in turn handed control of the utility to the French-owned Veolia (think Beurt SerVaas), costing Indianapolis ratepayers even more. Mayor Ballard then sold off the utility to Citizens Energy, which intentionally overpaid knowing that it could simply shove it up the assess of utility users again with higher rates. This is what happens when you have a totally corrupt state utility regulatory agency that doesn't give a damn about the utility consumers whose interests it's supposed to be protecting.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ballard's Former Personal Assistant Pleads Guilty In Land Bank Scam

A former personal assistant to Mayor Greg Ballard and special projects manager for the Department of Metropolitan Development, John Hawkins, has pleaded guilty to one count of federal wire fraud in connection with kickbacks he received from the sale of abandoned property by the City's Land Bank to a nonprofit group according to the Star's Jon Murray. "The plea agreement says Hawkins’ potential penalty ranges from no time in prison to 20 years," Murray writes.

Four other persons charged in the scam are awaiting trial, including Reginald Walton, the Department's assistant director in charge of the City's abandoned property program. Three others awaiting trial include: David Johnson, 47, executive director of the Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition; Randall K. Sargent, 57, president of New Day Residential Development; and Aaron Reed, 35, Walton's partner in the for-profit Naptown Housing Group. The defendants face a number of charges, including wire fraud, bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

UPDATE: It looks like Reginald Walton had cooked up another kickback scheme concerning a mowing contract for properties held by the Land Bank. The U.S. Attorney's Office also announced new charges against Walton and the mowing contractor, Mark Harsley, who was awarded a one-year, not-to-exceed contract of $40,000. Harsley has been employed as a legislative liaison for the Department of Workforce Development. According to the indictment against the two, Walton did not actually receive any kickbacks; rather, he had merely solicited them from Harsley. Walton was indicted last spring before Harsley received his first payment under the contract.

This is still small-time crap to give the impression that Hogsett's office is actually prosecuting public corruption. The big cases involving much larger sums of money go unprosecuted. Nobody cares about these affirmative action hires that Ballard only put on the city payroll to give the black community the impression he was doing something for them. Where was Olgen Williams and Greg Wilson while all this stuff was taking place? They put these hucksters in their jobs without regards to their qualifications. They've also been at the forefront in pushing an affirmative action plan for hiring persons with prior criminal records. How's that working for you, Greg?

Federal Judge Slaps Down President Obama For Governing By "Secret Law" In Document Disclosure Case

For the second time this week, a federal district court in D.C. has issued a stinging opinion against the Obama administration. On Monday, a federal district court judge appointed by President George W. Bush ruled that the NSA's bulk gathering of telephonic metadata involving the telephone records of all Americans violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Yesterday, a federal district court judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton ruled that the Obama administration's claim of executive communications privilege in refusing to release a document pertaining to foreign aid amounted to governing by "secret law."

The case involved a single document containing a presidential directive titled "Presidential Policy Development on Global Development" that was widely distributed within the executive branch of government. The White House had released a detailed fact sheet on the document "touting it as a 'first of its kind by a U.S. administration' that 'recognizes that development is vital to U.S. national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States" and the President had spoken publicly about its contents Judge Ellen Huvelle noted in her opinion. The directive purported to "communicate policy relevant to national security and foreign relations" even though no part of the document was deemed classified or was there a claim of national security made when the Center for Effective Government filed a FOIA request with the State Department seeking its release. Instead, the administration claimed a presidential communications privilege exemption from disclosure when the group made its FOIA request in 2011.

In ruling against the claim of privilege, Judge Huvelle criticized the government for adopting "a cavalier attitude that the President should be permitted to convey orders throughout the Executive Branch without public oversight . . . to engage in what is in effect governance by 'secret law'" by claiming privilege under an exemption that was only intended for communications with the President's closest advisers. The administration's position conflicted with "the very purpose of FOIA . . . to permit access to official information long shielded unnecessarily from public view." To hold otherwise, she said would allow "no effective limitation on a President's ability to engage in 'secret law.'"

Former Child Care Worker Charged With Theft And Forgery

Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry filed theft and forgery charges against Marsha Thompson, the former executive director of the Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral. Her agency receives funding from the Family & Social Services Administration. She is accused of filing fraudulent time sheets and spending more than $6,800 for personal use. According to the complaint, Thompson used a credit card issued to her agency to buy an airplane ticket, motel room, restaurant meals, bar tabs and other personal expenses for her and her boyfriend. According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, state investigators learned of the theft and forgery while investigating another employee of the agency who told them about Thompson's use of the credit card for improper purposes. The fraudulent credit card charges allegedly began in January, 2011 and continued through March of this year. The fraudulent time sheets were submitted in June, 2012 according to the complaint.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pence Supports State Police Collection Of Bulk Cellphone Data Without A Warrant

I can't same that I'm surprised by his comments, but Gov. Mike Pence has finally spoken out about a recent Indianapolis Star report on surveillance software purchased by the Indiana State Police earlier this year that permits the agency to capture in bulk cellphone data within a particular radius from where it is being operated without a warrant. Pence thinks the unwarranted, unconstitutional snooping is acceptable, showing just how willing he is to violate the oath he took as governor to uphold the constitution, not to mention the oath he took as an attorney admitted to practice law in this state.
Speaking with reporters, Pence said he met with police officials last Thursday for a briefing after an Indianapolis Star report revealed the agency had acquired a “Stingray” device for $373,995.
“I believe this technology is in the interest of public safety, and I believe it has enhanced our ability to both protect and save lives,” Pence told reporters. “I was informed that in the limited number of cases where this technology has been used that it has only been used with strict judicial oversight.”
But when pressed, Pence didn’t answer repeated questions about whether the agency obtains search warrants before turning on the devices.
Pence’s press secretary Kara Brooks referred further inquires about the devices to State Police spokesman Dave Bursten, who didn’t immediately return a message this morning from The Star.
Previously, Bursten has declined to answer questions about the devices and would not say whether the agency uses Stingrays without a search warrant.
The NSA compels telephone companies to turn over telelphonic metadata in bulk, a step it claims is necessary to protect national security interests, which today means protecting us from terrorists. A federal district court ruled this practice unconstitutional. Of course, most terrorists are funded, trained and directed by the CIA so their activities are curiously never detected in advance by the NSA's snooping. The accused Boston Marathon bombing suspects are perfect examples. Despite being sponsored for immigration to this country by an uncle who works for the CIA and being placed under constant monitoring by the FBI, the two young Tsarnaev brothers we are told somehow managed to build, place and detonate two "bombs" in an area crawling with police and extra security. (Yes, I deliberately put the word in quotes because only made-for-movie special effect bombs were exploded next to crisis actors who were paid to pretend to have suffered injuries, which is self-evident to anyone who views the video of the blast scenes with open eyes).

It's total nonsense for Pence to suggest that a civil police agency has any need to collect cell phone data in bulk for any legitimate law enforcement purpose. It's an unchecked fishing expedition of the worst order that can be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes, not the least of which includes spying on political enemies. No citizen of this state should trust the Indiana State Police to use this spying capability responsibly. Legislation is clearly needed to limit its use strictly to instances where it has obtained an order from a court based on a finding of probable cause, and to impose harsh penalties on those who would use it otherwise.