Elected Officials and Legal Issues and Attorneys and State Government and Carl Brizzi and Government & Economic Development and Government and Law

Judge rejects appeal from former state elections chief

December 26, 2013

A judge has denied former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White's request to have his conviction on voter fraud and other charges overturned and ordered White to begin serving his sentence of a year of home confinement.

Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Pfleging ruled Monday that there was no evidence to show that White's trial attorney, Carl Brizzi, shouldn't enjoy the "strong presumption of competence" and that Brizzi's trial strategy was "objectively reasonable."

Pfleging wrote that White couldn't point to a single piece of evidence or a witness that would have swayed the jury's decision, and that White hasn't presented anything during post-conviction evidentiary hearings that challenged Pfleging's "confidence in the outcome or the process which produced it."

White's current attorney, Bryan Ciyou, didn't respond to an email seeking comment Thursday. His office said he wouldn't be at work Thursday.

White was removed as secretary of state in February 2012 after being convicted of three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of theft. The charges stemmed from his use of his ex-wife's home in Fishers as his voting address in 2010 while serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state.

Prosecutors said White lived in a townhouse outside his Council district with his then-fiancee, but was still receiving his Council salary and was still voting in his old precinct.

White filed a 79-page petition in March asking the court to vacate the six felony convictions, saying Brizzi provided incompetent counsel by failing to call any witnesses. White had testified in October that he thought it was "a joke" when Brizzi told him he didn't plan to call any witnesses.

Pfleging granted the state summary disposition on most of White's arguments of ineffective counsel and found that Brizzi gave an efficient cross-examination of witnesses. He also found that Brizzi did not provide ineffective counsel in deciding not to call any defense witnesses.

"There were numerous, significant testimonial problems for each of the witnesses defendant claims should have been called to testify at trial. Cumulatively, the effect of these credibility problems would have done more harm than good had these witnesses taken the stand," Pfleging wrote.

As an example, the judge cited White's wife, Michelle, saying during preparation for her trial testimony that "Charlie didn't live there," referring to his ex-wife's home in Fishers, which he used as his voting address in 2010 while serving on the Fishers Town Council and running for secretary of state.

Pfleging wrote that if Brizzi had allowed Michelle White to testify he would have been placed "in the untenable position of suborning perjury or subjecting Michelle White to a potentially damaging cross examination."

He also found that White offered nothing to support his assertion that Brizzi was ignorant of the law.

White was ordered to begin serving his home-detention sentence by Jan. 10.

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