Feds decline to press charges against former prosecutor Brizzi

October 22, 2013

Federal prosecutors have declined to press criminal charges against former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi after a three-year investigation failed to yield sufficient direct evidence he accepted bribes while in office.

A joint public corruption task force led by the FBI and Indiana State Police in the last few weeks presented evidence it had gathered on Brizzi to federal prosecutors, who feared the mostly circumstantial case would not hold up in front of a jury or on appeal, sources said.

Ron Safer, an attorney representing Brizzi, told IBJ that the decision should not come as a surprise since his client "never did anything that approaches criminal activity.

"Carl is ecstatic and relieved," said Safer, managing partner at Schiff Hardin in Chicago. "This day should have come a long time ago, and we're gratified it came today."

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett confirmed for the first time in a statement Tuesday that Brizzi was indeed the target of a federal investigation, but that successful cases against two Brizzi associates had failed to yield anything beyond circumstantial evidence against the two-term prosecutor.

In a statement, Hogsett described Brizzi's actions—accepting $25,000 in campaign contributions from the father of a woman (Paula Willoughby) who was seeking a modification to a murder sentence and arranging a lenient plea bargain for a business partner's client (Joseph Mobareki)—as "unacceptible" and vowed to seek to have Brizzi's law license rescinded.

The U.S. Attorney's Office successfully charged Brizzi's former deputy prosecutor David Wyser for accepting a bribe (he pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing), and defense attorney and Brizzi friend Paul J. Page for wire fraud (he also pleaded guilty).

But the feds were unsuccessful at trial in a fraud case against Brizzi friend and business partner John Bales and two partners, who faced a handful of felony charges relating to a real estate deal in Elkhart. A jury found the men not guilty on all 13 counts.

The not-guilty verdict in the Bales case was likely a factor in the U.S. Attorney's Office decision not to pursue a case against Brizzi, though Hogsett did not reference the case in his prepared statement.

"As the United States Attorney, I must determine that there is sufficient admissible evidence to prove a federal crime beyond a reasonable doubt prior to authorizing criminal charges," Hogsett said.

"Because neither Paul Page, nor David Wyser, nor any other witness has provided direct evidence that Mr. Brizzi received a bribe in connection with the Willoughby matter or the Mobareki plea bargain, I have determined that there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Brizzi committed the crime of bribery and sustain a conviction."

Safer, Brizzi's attorney and a former federal prosecutor, described Hogsett's statement and in particular its criticism of Brizzi's conduct as unprecedented and inappropriate given the presumption of innocence.

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