Indiana judge sentences White on felony convictions

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2012 6:49 PM
Indiana judge sentences White on felony convictions

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - An Indiana judge refused on Thursday to reduce former Secretary of State Charlie White's conviction on voter fraud and other felony charges to misdemeanors, a decision that makes the Republican ineligible under state law to hold public office.

White's attorneys had asked Hamilton County Judge Steve Nation to cut the six felony convictions to misdemeanors so the 42-year-old, who has no criminal background, could serve out his term as the state's top election official.

But Nation refused the request, saying White's crime was "not a mistake but an intentional act" that had "violated the trust of the people."

He sentenced White, the former chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, a suburb of Indianapolis, to one year of home detention and 30 hours of community service and fined him $1,000.

White's attorneys said they planned to appeal.

White was indicted last year on charges he lied about his home address while serving on the Fishers Town Council so that he could retain a $1,000-a-month stipend and continue to pursue his political ambitions.

White claimed he was living in the basement of his ex-wife's home within the district he represented. But prosecutors introduced documents at trial that showed he lived outside the district with his fiancée.

A jury earlier this month convicted White on six felony charges, including perjury, theft and voter fraud, each one punishable by up to three years in prison.

Under Indiana law, any public officer convicted of a felony must be removed from office. So following White's conviction, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Deputy Secretary of State Jerry Bonnet, an employee of the office since 2005, as a temporary replacement while the judge weighed the request to reduce the felonies to misdemeanors.

White's conviction and sentencing on Thursday was expected to redouble efforts by Democrats to have Vop Osili, the Democrat who ran against White in 2010 and lost, named Indiana's secretary of state.

At a previous court hearing in December, a judge in Indianapolis ruled that Osili, who lost to White by more than 340,000 votes, should be declared the winner of the election.

The Indiana Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the validity of the judge's ruling in that case and a hearing has been scheduled for February 29.

(Writing by James B. Kelleher; editing by Dan Burns and Tim Gaynor)