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Ex-prosecutor pleads guilty to bribery

July 2, 2013

A former Marion County deputy prosecutor pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting a bribe after agreeing to tell federal prosecutors everything he knows about public corruption in Indianapolis.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker accepted the plea from 53-year-old David Wyser.

Wyser could face up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors recommend his sentence be reduced due to his cooperation, but Barker is not bound by the recommendation. The court has not yet set a date for sentencing.

Wyser was the top deputy prosecutor under former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Prosecutors allege he accepted a $2,500 bribe in 2009 to reduce the 70-year sentence of a prisoner convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The money allegedly came from the prisoner's father.

Wyser has agreed to cooperate with authorities as they continue an investigation led by the FBI, federal officials said. Brizzi is a target, according to IBJ sources, but has not been charged with any crime and has denied wrongdoing.

Wyser, who was Brizzi's chief trial deputy, in 2010 ran an unsuccessful race for Hamilton County prosecutor after Brizzi opted against running for a third term in Marion County. Wyser has since served as a deputy prosecutor in Madison County.

The case against Wyser centers on the early release of Paula Willoughby, who had been convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme. Her father, Harrison Epperly, made large political contributions to Brizzi and Wyser as their office was considering a potential sentence modification.

Willoughby was sentenced to 110 years in prison in 1991 after her husband was gunned down outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An appeal shrank the sentence to 70 years. The modification cut it to time served, and Willoughby was freed in July 2009.

Epperly gave at least $29,000 to Brizzi from 2006 to 2008, and also donated $2,500 to Wyser. The latter came in 2009, before the filing of the sentence modification in court.

The charging document alleged that a $2,500 contribution to Wyser was "a reward for his sentence modification recommendation" in the Willoughby case.

Both Brizzi and Wyser later returned their donations, many of which came through Epperly’s company EMSP LLC.

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