Indiana politician's fate in hands of jury

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2012 1:33 PM

By Susan Guyett

NOBLESVILLE, Indiana (Reuters) - An Indiana jury on Friday began deliberating the fate of embattled Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, who faces felony charges of perjury, theft and vote fraud.

The trial wrapped up Friday with closing arguments from prosecutors who contend White knowingly lived outside his town council district, lied on official forms and committed vote fraud in part because of his political ambitions.

"It's never been about politics,," special prosecutor D.J. Sigler told jurors. "It's about a politician who thought he could get away with it. He knew better and did it anyway."

White, a Republican who was elected secretary of state in 2010, went on trial Tuesday in Hamilton County on the charges. A special prosecutor said White lied on documents that were public record to retain a $1,000 a month stipend for his council seat.

A defense attorney for White said he worked hard as a town council member, none of his votes were voided, and questioned whether White was a target of an overzealous prosecution.

The charges were a "textbook form of political persecution," Carl Brizzi, a former Marion County prosecutor, told jurors.

"Give Charlie his life back," he said.

White is a former chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County. He has remained secretary of state despite the criminal indictment and civil lawsuits that have challenged the validity of his election to state office.

Separately, a Marion County judge in December ruled that White was not eligible to run for secretary of state in 2010 because he was not properly registered at his own address. White has been allowed to stay in office while he appeals that ruling.

The Marion County judge ruled that the Democrat White defeated by more than 340,000 votes in 2010, Vop Osili, should be declared the winner of the election.

(Reporting by Susan Guyett; Editing by David Bailey)