NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A Hamilton County courtroom will play host Thursday to the closing chapter of a political drama that's played out for nearly two years. Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office after he was convicted on voter fraud charges earlier this month. Now, he’s set to learn his fate.
One more round of legal maneuvering is expected ahead of Thursday’s sentencing hearing, in a case that's been full of political drama from the start.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 4, jurors convicted Charlie White (R) on six of the seven felony counts of voter fraud, perjury and theft he faced, saying he used his ex-wife's address on voter registration forms in the May primary. Democrats alleged White intentionally used the wrong address in order to keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council.
White disagreed following the verdict, saying he would "live to fight another day."
That day has now come.
White’s attorney, Carl Brizzi, says he'll ask Judge Steven Nation, a Republican, at Thursday’s sentencing to reduce each of the felony convictions to misdemeanors, which could allow White to regain his title as secretary of state.
Just hours after the verdict, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) appointed former Deputy Secretary of State Jerry Bonnet as an interim replacement for White. If White’s felony convictions are upheld, Daniels has indicated he will appoint a permanent replacement.
That prompted a new allegation from White, who appeared on Fox News Channel the following day, blasting the jury’s decision as a “miscarriage of justice,” and lobbing new allegations that the Governor should face a jury too.
"Mitch Daniels has voted incorrectly according to the standards put on me the last 10 elections,” White said. “He votes down at the Governor's mansion, where everyone knows he does not live. The local media will not talk about this, because — again — it's inconvenient."
Prosecutors said their case against White was not a political one, but reflected a man they said "gamed the system." It is possible that they could ask the judge to consider White’s comments following the verdict in his sentencing decision, though prosecutors had not revealed what recommendation they plan to give to the judge on sentencing.
Democrats, meanwhile, continue their political fight over the matter. Earlier this month, Judge Louis Rosenberg, a Democrat, ruled that Vop Osili — the runner-up in the 2010 election — should take over as secretary of state. That decision was stayed, but the Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the issue on Feb. 29.
White, meanwhile, continues to hold out hope that he'll be reinstated. He is expected to make a statement at Thursday’s sentencing hearing, likely pushing for a lenient sentence that would include probation or home detention.
If the convictions are not reduced, each of the six Class D felonies could carry a prison term of between six months and three years.
24-Hour News 8 will be in the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing, which is set to begin at 3 p.m. Watch for the very latest on air at 5 p.m. and online as it breaks.
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