Ind. Election Chief's Voter Fraud Trial Nears End

Published February 4, 2012 3:54AM (EST)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The political future of Indiana's top election official, and potentially his freedom, rested Friday with jurors, who were deliberating late into the night in his voter fraud trial.

The Hamilton County jury left the courtroom about 12:30 p.m. Friday following closing arguments in the trial of Secretary of State Charlie White. Jurors had a question for the judge shortly after 6 p.m., then resumed deliberations, which were still going at 10:30 p.m.

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 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 jurors Friday that he chose not to present a defense because it was the prosecution's responsibility to prove White was guilty, not his to prove his client's innocence.

"I firmly believe we live in a country where we don't have to prove our innocence," he said.

Brizzi told jurors 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.

Special prosecutor John Dowd said the case had nothing to do with White's politics.

"It has to do with his conduct as a voter," Dowd 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.

State law bars convicted felons from holding office. But even if White is acquitted, he 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.

By Salon Staff

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