Ind. Election Chief's Voter Fraud Trial Nears End

Published February 3, 2012 6:54PM (EST)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A jury began deliberations Friday in the voter fraud trial of Indiana's election chief, who faces charges that could oust him from office.

The fate of Secretary of State Charlie White will be decided by the Hamilton County jury, who left the courtroom about 12:30 p.m. Friday following closing arguments.

Prosecutors have accused White of using his ex-wife's address instead of the address of a condo he had with his fiancée when he registered to vote in the May 2010 Republican primary. They allege White didn't want to give up his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary after moving from that district.

White, a Republican who took office in January 2011, was indicted in March 2011 by a Hamilton County grand jury on seven felony counts including theft, perjury and fraud. If White is convicted of a single count, he faces removal from office and possible prison time.

During his closing arguments, special prosecutor Dan Sigler Jr. argued that White knew that he was committing voter fraud but did it anyway for political power.

"If we aren't going to enforce election law against the secretary of state of Indiana, who are we going to enforce it against?" Sigler said.

White's attorney, Carl Brizzi, rested Thursday without presenting a defense.

Brizzi told the jury during his closing arguments Friday that White's name was on the condo's bills and documents because he was paying for his fiancée and her children to live there, not because he was living at that address.

"Their case is based entirely on assumption, innuendo and leaps," Brizzi told jurors. He challenged the voter fraud allegation, arguing there is no evidence to support it.

He also called the charges "a textbook political prosecution."

"They say we're not doing this because he's secretary of state. Baloney," Brizzi said.

White, 42, has said the charges ignored a complicated personal life in which he was trying to raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage and campaign for the statewide office he won in November 2010. 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.

White still could lose his office pending the outcome of an appeal in a civil challenge filed by Democrats.

Democrats appealed to a Marion County judge, who eventually ruled that the commission should certify Vop Osili as the winner of the 2010 race. Both sides then asked the Indiana Supreme Court to step in, but the high court hasn't yet agreed.

White has repeatedly ignored calls for his resignation from Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. Mitch Daniels. The verdict means he won't lose his job under a state law that bars convicted felons from holding office. But the pending civil challenge could still lead to his ouster.

By Salon Staff

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