Jury finds Charlie White guilty on six of seven counts
A Hamilton County jury has found Secretary of State Charlie White guilty on six of seven counts in his voter fraud case. The jury returned the verdict early Saturday morning after getting the case on Friday.
The jury began deliberating at 2:00 pm. They came back at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday after deliberating for nearly 13 hours.
White spoke to Eyewitness News after the verdict, and was disappointed with the decision. "Disappointed for my family and the people who supported me," White said. "We will review all of our options. A lot of things we've objected to all this time and fight another day."
Former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi defended White and will try to have the felonies reduced. "We would ask for an evidentiary hearing so he is charged not as a felon because it is not worthy of that, but as a misdemeanor," Brizzi said after leaving the courtroom.
Special prosecutor John Dowd wants the felony counts to stay in place. "Our position is the jury convicted him of six felonies," Dowd said, "and we believe he should be sentenced on the basis of six felonies."
White was accused of lying about where he lived when he registered to vote in the May 2010 Republican primary. Prosecutors said he used his ex-wife's address instead of a condo he had with his fiancee to keep his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary despite moving out of his council district.
State law bars anyone convicted of a felony from remaining in office. It wasn't immediately clear how quickly White could be replaced or who might succeed him.
Governor Mitch Daniels immediately appointed an interim Secretary of State to replace White, and issued this statement:
"Effective immediately, I have appointed Jerry Bonnet, a Secretary of State employee since 2005, and currently chief deputy, to serve as Secretary of State on an interim basis. This is an exceptionally busy time in the Secretary of State's office as signatures for president, U.S. Senate and governor are being certified this month. Jerry, a Yorktown native, has agreed to serve until I either select someone else to serve the remainder of the current term or until the prior occupant is reinstated.
"I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge's authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder. If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.
"Jerry Bonnet is a longtime employee who absolutely knows what should be done to provide the effective supervision and oversight the office requires."
A copy of the appointment letter may be found here.
White's conviction also means possible prison time.
Prosecuting attorney Dan Sigler became ill in court Friday morning and required medical attention. The Whitley County attorney returned to the courthouse in the afternoon.
Sigler's son tells Eyewitness News his father had a bout with the flu earlier this week and became dehydrated during closing arguments The younger Sigler said after his father was taken to the hospital, he and the team of special prosecutors went on to wrap up the case.
The prosecution argued that White knew he was committing voter fraud but did it anyway for political power.
White's attorney, Carl Brizzi, rested Thursday without presenting a case against the fraud charges.
Sigler returned to the Hamilton County Courthouse at 4:00 pm after getting an IV treatment at Riverview Hospital hours earlier.
Sigler told Eyewitness News he felt a lot better than he did "when his hands started trembling" during Carl Brizzi's closing arguments. Fearing he would pass out, Sigler said he made eye contact with the judge and quietly slipped out the door.
Once outside the courtroom he says he began shaking uncontrollably. That's when court deputies called an ambulance.
"It's not the way I wanted to leave the courthouse, but I knew the case was in good hands," said Sigler, referring to the prosecution team.
Prosecutors claim White used his ex-wife's address on his voter registration form in the May 2010 Republican primary when he actually had a condo elsewhere with his fiancee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.