Republican Prosecutor Candidate Mark Massa is calling on Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, also a Republican, to step down in the wake of a five-month-long IBJ investigation.
Massa, a former general counsel for Gov. Mitch Daniels and deputy prosecutor in Marion County, on Wednesday was scheduled to announce a series of ethics reforms he will enact if he is elected. Highlights of the plan include a new public integrity unit within the Prosecutor’s Office and a whistle-blower hotline for public employees to report malfeasance among elected officials.
Massa also will promise not to engage in outside business interests, serve on the board of any for-profit company or accept gifts of any kind.
“The criminal justice system cannot function without public confidence in the people we ask to exercise power on our behalf,” Massa was scheduled to say in prepared remarks on the steps of the federal courthouse at 45 E. Ohio St. “The people have a right to expect and demand integrity from all of their elected officials, but particularly from their prosecutor.”
Massa also is prepared to call for an early end to Brizzi’s second four-year term. He has been talking this week with Republican elected officials, seeking their support for such a move.
The request would come just days after IBJ exclusively reported on Brizzi’s personal intervention last year in a major drug case to offer a reduced sentence for a business partner’s client.
Brizzi insisted on a plea deal for Joseph Mobareki that would be acceptable to defense attorney Paul J. Page, despite objections from both law-enforcement officers and his own deputy prosecutors. Brizzi also directed his staff to return $10,000 in cash seized from Mobareki. A year earlier, Page had arranged for Brizzi to own 50 percent of an Elkhart office building worth $900,000 without investing any cash or co-signing a loan.
Brizzi, 41, said in a statement that he has no plans to resign.
“I have received no communications from anyone concerning a request to resign, period,” Brizzi wrote. “Instead of adding to rumor-mongering or allowing innuendo to substitute for fact, I believe it is in the best interest of our community to focus on real-world issues, such as the safety of our residents and the effective prosecution of criminals.”
If Brizzi stepped down before his terms ends in December, the responsibility under Indiana law to fill his position would fall to the Marion County Republican caucus, which likely would appoint Massa. If Brizzi were removed from office, the governor would appoint a replacement.
State law spells out a process for impeachment by the Indiana General Assembly should a prosecutor be convicted of a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could lead to removal from office by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John told IBJ Tuesday afternoon that he wasn’t in a position to talk about a potential response from Massa.
“We’re troubled by the allegations in your story, and we’re reviewing what our response should be,” John said.
Questions about the Mobareki case are only the most recent of Brizzi dealings to attract scrutiny. He has invested in public companies affiliated with Timothy Durham, the target of a federal securities fraud investigation. He bought a stake in the restaurant Harry & Izzy's. And he has invested in real estate deals with John Bales, the real estate broker who represented the Prosecutor's Office in its lease deal.
Terry Curry, the Democratic candidate for prosecutor, said Brizzi’s involvement in outside investments and business dealings sends the wrong message.
“It is clearly poor judgment to enter into business relationships with anyone while you are the full-time prosecutor of Marion County,” Curry said in an interview. “I can absolutely pledge as prosecutor I wouldn’t enter into any kind of outside business relationships.”
This story will be updated.