Friday, May 24, 2013

Former Hancock County Coroner Sues Brizzi For Malpractice

When Hancock Co. Coroner Tamara Vangundy accepted a guilty plea for official misconduct, a Class D felony and a misdemeanor drunk driving charge, she believed she could seek re-election as county coroner because her plea agreement provided for alternative sentencing as a misdemeanor. Advance Indiana was the first to point out the obvious misreading of the statute. By the end of the day, her attorney, former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, agreed that he had misread the statute and Vangundy's guilty plea to a felony would bar her from seeking re-election to office. Now she's suing Brizzi for malpractice according to the Indiana Lawyer:
The suit filed May 16 in Marion Superior Court claims Vangundy paid Brizzi a flat fee of $10,000 for advice regarding election law and the implications for a public official pleading guilty to a felony.
“Carl Brizzi’s advice that Ms. Vangundy should plead guilty to official misconduct, a Class D felony, but receive misdemeanor sentencing, because she would be able to continue to serve as Hancock County coroner was flat wrong and caused Ms. Vangundy to forever lose her position as Hancock County coroner,” according to the complaint.
“After the plea agreement was accepted by the court, the Hancock County prosecutor emailed Carl Brizzi and threatened to prosecute Ms. Vangundy for impersonation of a public servant if she took a single coroner call from that day forward,” according to the complaint. Vangundy is represented by Cohen & Malad LLP.
Vangundy was advised to plead guilty to the charges, which she did Aug. 22. “When the judge read the plea of guilty to the felony charge, Ms. Vangundy specifically looked at Carl Brizzi and asked again, ‘Am I supposed to say yes to that?’” the complaint alleges.
“Brizzi advised Ms. Vangundy to say yes and to plea and again assured her that her position as Hancock County coroner was fine,” according to the complaint. Brizzi later told reporters that Vangundy wasn’t a convicted felon, but reversed himself that evening, telling the Greenfield Daily Reporter that Vangundy’s banishment from office was something attorneys on both sides hadn’t realized. “So shame on us for not considering it. There’s no excuse for it. It was a mistake, for sure,” Brizzi told the Daily Reporter.
The complaint alleges that when Vangundy asked for a refund over the bad advice, “Brizzi laughed and refused.” Vangundy claims her damages include the $10,000 fee, interest on a loan taken to pay the fee, lost salary and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, attorney fees and other relief.
“It is hard to believe that Mr. Brizzi would admit not even reading the statute he was hired to read and then (refuse) to give back the $10,000 he charged his client,” Cohen & Malad managing partner Irwin Levin said in a statement. “Ms. Vangundy was entitled to competent legal advice and Mr. Brizzi didn't give it. Ms. Vangundy's world has been turned upside down.”
Vangundy's lawsuit could bolster former Secretary of State Charlie White's petition for post-conviction relief. White blames his conviction on six felony charges related to allegations that he improperly served on the Fisher's Town Council and voted from an address at which he wasn't residing, in part, on Brizzi's decision not to put on a defense in his case. White's petition lays out that fact, among others, for contending that he received ineffective counsel during his trial.

1 comment:

CircleCityScribe said...

I'm wondering about interest, bias, and motive in this matter...especially since $10,000 is mentioned. Has she filed a verified complaint with the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission making these allegations?