Friday, April 9, 2010

The Brizzi Chronicles Continue; iPOPA Asks, "Where are Mayor Greg Ballard and Governor Mitch Daniels?


Russ McQuaid with Fox 59 reported yesterday that Carl Brizzi sold out an alleged rape victim, Amy Lindsey, by giving her assailant a beneficial plea deal because he worked for attorney Paul Page, Brizzi's business partner.

According to Ms. Lindsey, Brizzi worked out a plea deal over lunch with the alleged assailant, Robert Odendahl, along with Mr. Page and attorney Carolyn Rader.

Here's the story from Lindsey:

 
It is critical to note that former Deputy Prosecutor Courtney Curtis, who was on the case, told McQuaid she never told Amy Lindsey that. Instead, Curtis said Lindsey's story was suspect, which is why the office agreed to the reduced charge of criminal confinement, which would keep Mr. Odendahl off the sex offender registry and permit him to later petition for modification of his sentence to a misdemeanor.

Regardless of whether Ms. Lindsey's story is true, this case is disturbing on many levels.

First, Ms. Curtis's phrasing is interesting. She doesn't say the lunch meeting never happened. She says she never told Lindsey that the meeting happened. Wouldn't that be simple enough to check out by asking Page or Brizzi? (I'm thinking Brizzi might not return my call, so can somebody else check?)

And if this meeting happened, how can Brizzi say he's not playing favorites with Page? Breaking bread with the alleged criminals you're prosecuting is what he does with everybody? That's hardly the right signal for a guy supposedly advocating for victims. (If you do criminal defense and you've met Brizzi for lunch with your client, please contact me...because I want to see if you're on Brizzi's donor list).

Also, if the rape story was so suspect, why was Odendahl charged? Didn't the prosecutor screening the case talk to the victim, or does Brizzi's office just charge people with rape willy-nilly to let them correct any mistakes on the back end, provided they have the right counsel?

Elsewhere in the GOP nightmare known as the Brizzi Administration...

The Indianapolis Star joined the chorus of folks asking for Carl Brizzi's resignation. Here's the read:

One of the saddest aspects of the Marion County prosecutor's financial ties to defense attorneys is that they're legal.

The law, however, only opens the door to conflict of interest. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has walked through, more than once. Two key members of his party have said "enough," and so should Brizzi.

Mark Massa had plenty of strategic reason for demanding Brizzi's resignation Wednesday in the wake of revelations by the Indianapolis Business Journal of Brizzi's intervention in a criminal case on behalf of a client of his business partner.

Massa is the GOP candidate to replace Brizzi, who is not seeking a third term. Democrats will run against Brizzi, in effect, so Massa needs to distance himself.

That said, there is no way Massa's criticism -- seconded by GOP County Chairman Tom John -- can be dismissed as "a political stunt" by an obstinate prosecutor.

It was at best abysmal judgment for Brizzi to have become half-owner of an office building with a criminal defense lawyer. It raises red flags that Brizzi had to put up no money toward the $900,000 investment with Paul J. Page.

Then to personally push through a lenient plea deal for an accused drug dealer who was a Page client, over the objections of the deputy prosecutor, and to order the return of $10,000 confiscated from the defendant, takes observers beyond skepticism to cynicism.

Nor is it the first time.

There is the continuing FBI scrutiny of Brizzi's ties to financier Tim Durham, his 2006 campaign finance chairman and the target of a securities investigation.

And there's the case of Paula Willoughby. Sentenced to 110 years in prison in 1991 for hiring a man to kill her husband, Willoughby walked free in 2009 via a sentence modification Brizzi's office supported. Her father, businessman Harrison Epperly, along with defense attorney Jennifer Lukemeyer and Lukemeyer's law partner James H. Voyles Jr., were election campaign contributors to Brizzi. Brizzi gave back Epperly's $28,500 -- after the sentencing change -- and said it played no role in his decision.

The public should not have to trust him on that, because the entanglements Brizzi has indulged in should not exist in this critical office. Laws and rules, not just personal behavior, should skew toward credibility and independence at all costs. Massa's pledge of a batch of reforms, including eschewal of outside business dealings, sounds bold, if a bit self-serving, in the current atmosphere. It ought to be moot. The old temptations must go, and so must the man who has succumbed to them.

Lucky Carl Strikes Real Estate Gold

First, I'm not sure why people keep reporting Brizzi's Elkhart buildling buy was for $900,000; it was for $825,000. (Look at 1659 Mishawaka Street for the Abnikcar sold to L&BAB LLC entry).

Second, isn't anybody curious about how Brizzi just happened to come upon a property which had 13 of its 15,000 square feet rented by the Indiana Department of Child Services within five months for $248,000 per year on what I'm told (and still trying to confirm) is a "triple net lease"? Under this type of lease, not only does the landowner get a lease payment for the space, renter (in this case, the State of Indiana) would also pay for the real estate taxes, utilities, and maintenance, which means there is literally no risk for Brizzi and Page. At that rental rate, the two would own the building free and clear in just over three years.

Can I ask a question?

Why wouldn't the State of Indiana have just bought the building, which the Department of Administration could have done under Indiana law. Obviously, DCS was in the market for a lot of space. Wouldn't somebody have looked around and said, "Hey, here's a building we can buy for $825,000 that's just the right size! That would sure be cheaper than idiotically leasing that same space for $248,000 a year for ten years!"

Maybe somebody with the state did know DCS was looking. Maybe they were the person looking. And maybe somebody told somebody else about it. Is this conspiratorial supposition? Maybe.

Don't you have to ask how Brizzi got so lucky? What compelled him to look at commercial properties in Elkhart? Was it the thriving Elkhart real estate economy? I bet if you asked, he couldn't answer any better than he could tell you why he bought Cellstar stock.

Also, how does Brizzi get away with listing a 50% interest in an $825,000 building as being worth $50-$100,000 on his Statement of Economic Interests?

First Place Media Strategy

On the politics end, there's been a robust debate in Democratic circles about whether D's should have been first to call for Brizzi's resignation, and I apologize to the Democratic candidates for prosecutor, Terry Curry and Greg Bowes, if anybody took away from my critique the idea they were comfortable with what was going down in Brizzi's office.

I've heard Curry "on the stump" quite a bit, and what this office has become sickens him. But until Massa spoke, nobody had called for Brizzi's resignation publicly or weighed in on Brizzi as strongly as Massa did. Once the dam broke, Curry then took it up a notch and asked for a special prosecutor to investigate Brizzi. Fortunately, this angle got covered by Channel 13. (Well played, sir).

Greg Bowes also took a swing at Massa after the fact:

Yesterday, the Republican candidate for Prosecutor announced he would establish a "Public Integrity Unit" to investigate crimes committed by public officials. On February 12, 2010, when I filed my candidacy papers, I announced to the press that I would establish a public integrity unit. I am glad to see the Republican candidate likes my idea.


Bowes also pointed out his long-standing suspicion of Brizzi's estranged relationship with truth. Bowes reminded voters that in December of 2006, he filed an extremely detailed complaint with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission in which he argued that Brizzi knowingly lied at a public hearing. Bowes wrote:

On July 19, 2006, Carl Brizzi . . .in his capacity as Marion County Prosecutor, gave testimony before (the City-County Council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee) regarding Marion County’s collective efforts to manage the problem of overcrowding in its jail.

While discussing the high-profile release of an detainee, James Stewart, who was later accused of murdering seven people, Mr. Brizzi stated, “He was asked to be held, and the judge made a decision not to hold him.” Mr. Brizzi went on to say, “it was his record that caused my front line deputy to ask that henot be released.” He later said Stewart “was OR’d over our objection.”

These statements were false.

The transcript of Stewart’s initial hearing where he was released shows that no deputy prosecutor asked that Stewart be held, and no deputy prosecutor objected to his release, because there was no deputy prosecutor present.

Now, there is a school of thought that cannot be easily discounted that Democrats ingeniously and intentionally kept silent. The theory goes that by waiting for Massa to ambush Brizzi, Democrats ensured that Brizzi's reaction was to lash out, which, sure enough, he did immediately. Brizzi called Massa's press conference a "political stunt," and then referred to Tom John as one of the most "ineffective chairmen Marion County has seen in decades." I dare say we should expect the "payback is a (expletive)" bud to go full bloom before we leave Spring, and Republicans will devour each other for months to come.

But, reasonable minds can differ, and tactically, I still think Democrats missed the boat on this one.

Here's why.

If Democrats had gone out first, Massa absolutely gets an ostensible out for his action. He can say to Brizzi, "Hey, I want to let you know I have to do this because the Democrats put me in a box." But I can't fathom any universe where Brizzi's anger is lessened when Massa craps all over him, and folks, he was going to haveto do it. Whether you agree with me hinges on whether you think a deep cut from within the family shallows if you see it coming and you can blame somebody else for it having to happen. On that score, I just feel certain we would have seen the "Brizzi backlash" even if Dems had gone first, and we would have picked up the PR bump in the process.

One comment posted on this blog today said I'm wrong because:

(1) Democrats would have been accused of "pulling a stunt" in asking for Brizzi's resignation; and

(2) Republicans are in a circle shooting at each other, and it's best to let them be.

With all due respect to Councillor Jose Evans, a political stunt is when you go to the Mayor's Office and hand him a letter asking for the resignation of the water department director. That's grandiose political theater that everybody knows won't change anything. But here, Brizzi had gone so far over the line, there's no way it would have played like a stunt foremost. If you think I'm wrong, go back up and read the portions of the Star's editorial I italicized.

On the GOP self-slaughter, yeah, once a fracas breaks out among all the principles, you can step back. That's conventional wisdom. But until it broke out, we had the chance to impress upon independent voters that D's were leading the charge to clean up the pervasive Durham-Brizzi-Plowman-(Massa?)-(Daniels?) axis of corruption.

Terry Curry, Greg Bowes, Ed Treacy, and Melina Kennedy all made public statements about Brizzi/Massa, but not before Massa stepped to his microphone. Did you see any of their names in the Star editorial?

Why are Ballard and Daniels Tight-Lipped?

Two big names we haven't heard from on Brizzi are Mayor Greg Ballard and Governor Mitch Daniels.

As I previously reported, Kennedy called on Ballard to ask for Brizzi's resignation as well. The Mayor hasn't replied, and I think I might know why. Ballard's campaign consultant (to the tune of $10,000 per month) is Jennifer Hallowell, the political strategist who got Brizzi elected twice and, by quite a few accounts, either had or currently has a social relationship with Brizzi. That's gotta make things dicey for Hizzoner. How do you publicly bust the chops of your political consultant's boyfriend?

And where is Governor Daniels on this? Does he support Massa's call for Brizzi's resignation? If so, why hasn't Mitch publicly conceded that his biking buddy is "riding dirty?"

Does it have anything to do with the fact that the Governor's Office has to approve leases under Indiana law? I'm sorry, who approved the Brizzi building lease?


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13 comments:

Jane said...

If people look they will see that Lindsey yelled foul from the begining. This is not something that just happened. Everyone who knows her knows that from the begining she said that Brizzi and Page were in bed together and everyone ignored her.

Paul K. Ogden said...

"Also, how does Brizzi get away with listing a 50% interest in an $825,000 building as being worth $50-$100,000 on his Statement of Economic Interests?"

My guess is the mortgage was deducted before determining the value. If I have $1 million house and a $900K mortgage, I only have $100K equity in the house.

Melanie Brizzi worked for FSSA a completely different agency. The attempt to connect her to Carl's wrongdoing are farfetched.

Anonymous said...

Who is the Head of DCS?

Who approves all leases by DCS?

Do those people have any connection to Carlito?

Just how does one get a half interest in a 850k building without putting up a dime? Did Carlito grease the wheeels to get the person who must approve DCS leases on board? And what did the person who approved the lease get in return?

Why would Brizzi tell Tom John, "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?"

What is the Prosecutor's Office doing about cases currently pending involving Paul Page? Wouldn't the appointment of a special prosecutor be appropriate? How can a judge have a case involving Paul Page and MCPO in front of them and not think there is a problem? Can't the Judge, on their own motion, order a special prosecutor?

iPOPA said...

Paul:

In hindsight, I agree. When I worked for government, I knew a LOT of what other agencies were doing, but I agree it's too tenuous for me, and you'll see I scrubbed the reference in the story.

But Brizzi wasn't on any loan. I have to give it to these folks. If you never put it on paper, it's a lot harder to prove the quid pro quos, isn't it?

iPOPA said...

Anon:

The contracts have to be approved by the Commissioner of the Department of Administration, but it must also pass through the Governor's Office, as I stated.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Jim Payne runs DCS. A more partisan man never lived. Ethics don't worry him a lot either. I'm surprised people have bothered to try to tie this to Melanie Brizzi when Jim Payne has done so many questionable things. Remember when he conducted the off-the record hearing regarding the daughter of a state legislator. The girl wasn't even appointed an attorney.

Anonymous said...

FABULOUS piece that says it all, Counselor Worden....only clarification I'd like to make for those who may not have followed the details is that Brizzi bought stock in Cellstar, a Dallas, Texas company RIGHT BEFORE Brightpoint bought Cellstar. Brightpoint is an Indianapolis company whose CEO Robert Laikin's brother, Dan Laikin, is business partners with infamous Tim Durham.

It should also be noted Dan Laikin recently pleaded guilty to felony manipulation of National Lampoon stock in return for the felony associated with manipulating stock in Red Rock Pictures. Carl Brizzi also accumulated a large position of stock in Red Rock Pictures.

As you point out, he didn't just guess to do these things. He should be prosecuted for insider trading on those stocks and the Supreme Court should move to immediately investigate Brizzi in a timely fashion so the conclusion occurs before the end of December to effect a termination of any pension rights Brizzi has.

I think we can all agree he has made more than enough money using his role of PROSECUTOR to enrich himself.

Again, very nice work on this piece, Chris.

Anonymous said...

Any speculation why Paul Page didn't represent Odendahl himself? Did he and Carl simply become more bold?

Anonymous said...

I meant to say Laikin pleaded guilty to a felony on National Lampoon stock in return for the felony count on Red Rock pictures being DROPPED.

The only reason Carl Brizzi would buy hundreds of thousands of shares of Red Rock Pictures is because he knew Laikin was organizing the pump and dump, big time NO NO. And, that is called INSIDER TRADING.

Carl Brizzi, you are no Mark Cuban!

Jane said...

Paul has also done some work for Lindsey's relatives in the past and probably did not want to be thrown out because of a "conflict". He did however show to every deposition and court appearrance.

Anonymous said...

The building sold for 825K but is now appraised for tax purposes at 900K.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:26,

Anon 11:14 here. Thanks for making the link. IPOPA missed my hints in the questions I raise. My fault for being too cute.

Are the links to other prominent pols the reason the Guv won't call for Carlito to leave? Are Carlito's ties to prominent Repubs and his capability to bring them down too the reasoning behind his "glass houses" comment?

Anonymous said...

The value of Carl's investment is not $50-$100k. It is the increased intrinsic value due to the massive lease he inked PLUS the amount he nets each year. As is widely suspected to be a triple net lease, his half of the $$$ is around $100k a year in net income. And, he would know this since he has reaped it for the last two years now.

That would make the value of this spectacular find for Brizzi in excess of $1M--if you talked to an actuarial scientist--the bldg would sell for a multiple of the yearly rent PLUS the rent he get, not $50-$100k.

Johnny Bales would know this!