Friday, April 2, 2010

How Much Disrepute Can One Man Bring to a Prosecutor's Office? Ask Carl Brizzi.

The Indianapolis Business Journal’s Cory Schouten reported yesterday that Carl Brizzi intervened in a drug dealer case to get a plea deal that neither law enforcement nor deputy prosecutors wanted, and coincidentally, Brizzi’s business partner, Paul Page, was the defense attorney.

As most iPOPA readers probably know, Page gave Brizzi an ownership interest of between $50,000-$100,000 in an Elkhart office building worth $900,000 with no investment or co-signature on any loan because he said Brizzi found the property. Of course, almost immediately after obtaining the building, Page earned a lease from the Indiana Department of Child Services.

(I suppose we should write it off as coincidence that Brizzi’s ex-wife, Melanie Brizzi, is the director of the Bureau of Child Care, so in her work circles, she might learn that DCS was looking for a new space in Elkhart).

The story also notes that Brizzi directed law enforcement to return $10,000 in cash seized from the dealer, Joseph Mobareki, and that money was routed back to Page.

Schouten reports that Brizzi has gone from mostly hands-off in his early years to intervening on numerous cases, in particular with certain attorneys involved, including Page.

"We knew there was a quid," said a Prosecutor's Office source familiar with the Mobareki case. "We just weren't sure about the pro quo."

Schouten writes about the case:

Mobareki, a bodybuilder and personal trainer, was caught with anabolic steroids valued at more than $100,000, five unlicensed firearms and more than $17,000 in cash, records show. He was charged with seven felony counts of possession and dealing controlled substances and marijuana, for which he could expect six to 10 years in prison based on state sentencing guidelines.

The Prosecutor's Office narcotics unit-in exchange for a plea deal-had hoped to extract Mobareki's cooperation in tracking down his customers and suppliers by translating a cryptic roster of partial names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
But as deputy prosecutors worked the case, Page informed them he had reached a deal with Brizzi for a single count of possession of a controlled substance, a Class D felony and the lowest of the seven charges.

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Brodeur, the narcotics chief, practically begged Brizzi in an e-mail to reconsider his decision to allow for the possibility of an eventual reduction of Mobareki's remaining felony charge to a misdemeanor.

Brodeur took exception in particular to the way he learned of the plea deal, through Page directly after a conversation between Brizzi and Page.

Brodeur wrote to Brizzi, "I do not take directions on my cases from defense lawyers."

Brodeur made his case for taking a tougher position on Mobareki: He'd been caught with hundreds of steroid pills and bottles of liquid steroids, 700 Xanax pills, almost four pounds of marijuana, and log books listing his customers, including a local high school coach.

"Paul Page has contended, throughout the pendency of this case, the [sic] Mobareki is nothing more than a body builder who foolishly uses steroids," Brodeur wrote. "That is completely incorrect."

'Ill-gotten gains'

The investigation began in February 2008 when IMPD narcotics detectives, acting on a tip from a UPS employee, intercepted a package of steroids bound for Mobareki. They trailed Mobareki after he left the Center Grove Health Club on State Road 135 in Greenwood and later obtained search warrants for his home, car and a storage unit.

Police reports show they found steroids hidden inside an exercise ball, cereal box and jar of protein powder at his home, and seized five unlicensed guns including an SKS assault rifle. Detectives also confiscated $17,550 in cash-most of it hidden inside a bag of chicken in Mobareki's freezer.

"It is drug money and neither Mobareki nor Paul Page should profit from it," Brodeur wrote. "I have been working hard to convince police agencies that the [Marion County Prosecutor's Office] has both the ability and the motivation to strip drug dealers of their ill-gotten gains. Returning the money to Mobareki would certainly undercut that effort."

Mobareki, 35, spent two days in jail and paid $365 in fines, records show. He got $10,000 of the seized cash back, with the rest going to cover law enforcement expenses in a nod to those who had fought the release of the money. He has the right after a year on probation to request a misdemeanor sentence modification.

The handling of the Mobareki case veered from normal Prosecutor's Office procedure in at least three ways, said Henry C. Karlson, an Indiana University emeritus professor of law.

Typically, plea deals in drug cases keep the most serious felony charge, not the least. Defense attorneys usually deal with trial attorneys and not the elected prosecutor. And most major drug cases lead to substantial forfeiture actions-including cars, homes and cash.

"That appears to be a very good plea bargain-the kind of plea bargain lawyers dream about," Karlson said. "It appears to be a very unusual case with a very unusual plea bargain carried out in a very unusual manner."

You can see the extremely strong e-mail Brodeur sent here.

If the saying, "Where there's smoke..." is true, I wouldn't be half-surprised to see a Brizzi bribery indictment at some point in the future.

I take away three things from this story. First, the IBJ is doing some extremely impressive investigative journalism on the Brizzi-Durham-Bales-Page-Cochran axis of ethically-suspect transactions. It's turned into daily "must-read," so kudos to them.

Second, the professional prosecutors in the office know their reputations are now on the line. Those sitting quietly now know that the media is looking at their cases, and if they went along with a Brizzi plea, they'll look as suspect as he did. In short, I'm sure you can expect more of these disclosures from within the office soon as people try to prove to those who might be their new boss that they "spoke truth to power" and the hubris connected with that power rebuffed their efforts.

Finally, the Brizzi reign has reached such cataclysmically embarrassing proportions, I keep expecting an avalanche of high-ranking Republicans to ask publicly for Brizzi's resignation in concert. But nobody asks. Not Tom John, not Mark Massa, not Murray Clark, and not Governor Daniels. I can only conclude by their complete silence that they are okay with all of this.

And, of course, until some Republican buys Brizzi off with a great job offer or demolishes him so thoroughly in public that it's embarrassing to his family for him to stay, he has no incentive to leave. As Shouten points out, if Brizzi finishes his second term, he will be entitled to earn 24 percent of his highest annual salary of $125,000, or about $30,000 per year once he reaches retirement age, by IBJ's calculation.

You have got to be (expletive) kidding me.



I know said...

You aint seen nothing yet! The hits will keep coming....

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks for your journalistic integrity here, IPOPA. Happy Easter.