Former Secretary of State Charlie White was sentenced to one year of electronic monitored home detention by Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Steve Nation on Feb. 23. White was convicted of six felony charges including voter fraud for casting a ballot in a district in which he no longer lived during the May 2010 primary.
Nation sentenced White one year for each of six convictions, which will be served concurrently. He also was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and must serve 30 hours of community service. White can remain free until his appeal.
Nation listened to two hours of testimony and arguments before announcing his sentence. He considered White’s actions as intentional and a “breach of trust to the people.”
“There is no question in reviewing the (700 pages of) documents that Mr. White consciously planned to show the condo is where he lived. . . It’s not a mistake, that was an intentional act,” said Nation. “Because of what he did, I believe he violated the trust of the people who voted for him.”
A Hamilton County jury convicted White on Feb. 4 for using his ex-wife’s address to vote in the May 2010 primary and continuing to take a salary from the town of Fishers even though he had moved out of the district he represented on the Town Council. White’s attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, argued for Class A misdemeanor charges instead of the Class D felony charges the jury convicted him of earlier this month.
“They won. They got their six convictions,” said Brizzi, adding the prosecution’s push for jail time was “gratuitous.” “They want to teach this guy a lesson.”
Nation said White’s lack of criminal history and hardships for immediate family members were considered as mitigating circumstances; however, the aggravating circumstances of White’s “intentional act” determined the felony ruling.
White blamed the voting irregularities on the hectic pace of his campaign for secretary of state. He said he stayed at his ex-wife’s house when he wasn’t on the road campaigning and did not live in the condo until after he remarried.
“I never intentionally meant to do any of the things I was convicted of earlier this month,” White said. “I was changing in truck stops and McDonald’s on stops. . . I forgot what car or county I was in at times.”
White also tried to explain to Nation that comments he made in a Fox 59 News interview the day after a jury convicted him “displayed pent up anger.” During the interview, White called the jury’s verdict “a total miscarriage of justice” and “a perversion.”
“Even though I have been politically active, I am human,” he said.
During his statement to the court, White detailed his contributions locally and at the state through his roles as an attorney for the Dept. of Natural Resources, a member of the Fishers Town Council an as Secretary of State.
“There’s a fire in my heart to do meaningful things to help the community. . . protecting the weak against the strong,” said White. “I’m saddened these works are not what I’ll be remembered by.”
Brizzi said White’s legal problems have cost him much more than his political and legal career. Brizzi said White and his wife, Michelle, have stopped making mortgage payments on the condo that was at the heart of his legal troubles and will likely lose ownership of it. He added the crimes committed by White were victimless.
“His life is in tatters,” said Brizzi. “There is nothing to be gained by incarcerating this man even for a little time. Give Charlie the opportunity to redefine himself.”
Special prosecutors John Dowd, a Republican, and Dan Sigler, a Democrat, rejected the defense arguments that White was the victim of a political persecution and his convictions were victimless.
“He’s wreaked havoc with a statewide office. He’s wreaked havoc with the whole election process,” said Dowd. “The victim is not the state of Indiana but the people of Indiana.”
Dowd said White had no respect for the law or criminal justice system, stating that White condemned the special prosecutors, grand jury process, trial proceedings and result.
“The defendant has seen fit to blame everyone for his dilemma other than himself,” he said.
Following his sentencing, White left the courtroom with his wife and declined to speak to the media other than say he was “looking forward to spending time with his family.”
White had faced six months to three years in prison for each of his six convictions. He also lost his job as secretary of state because of the felony convictions, and it’s still uncertain who will take his place.
Under Indiana law, a public official found guilty of a felony is forced from office. Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed White’s chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, but he isn’t expected to make a permanent appointment until the Indiana Supreme Court rules in a civil lawsuit over White’s candidacy.
The Indiana Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments Wednesday in the lawsuit, in which Democrats contend White was never eligible to run for office because he was improperly registered to vote. Democrats want White’s candidacy declared invalid so that runner-up Vop Osili, a Democrat who lost to White by about 300,000 votes, is awarded the office.
White could be reinstated if his conviction is reversed on appeal. Nation said he would appoint a public defender to handle the appeal.
By Robert Herrington