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Sunday, August 26, 2012
Ind. Gov't. - Lake County coroner" guilty on all five counts"
HAMMOND | A U.S. District Court jury convicted Lake County Coroner and former county Clerk Thomas Philpot on Friday on five counts of theft and fraud charges.
The five-man, seven-woman jury took little more than three hours to reject defense pleas Philpot was the victim of an honest mistake and bad legal advice that led him to violate an obscure state law when he pocketed more than $24,000 from Indiana's federally funded child support incentive funds. He controlled the funds between 2004 and 2009 while serving as Lake County clerk.
That law forbids elected officials from giving themselves such bonuses without the approval of the seven-member fiscal body called the County Council.
Instead, jurors agreed the 54-year-old Highland lawyer was guilty of five felony counts that carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Moody released Philpot on bond and hasn't yet set a sentencing date.
The conviction strips Philpot from office as county coroner and all but ends his public career, which includes election as county coroner in 1992, 1996 and 2008; election as county clerk in 2002 and 2006; and his unsuccessful campaigns for Hammond mayor in 1995 and 1999, and for sheriff in 2010. * * *
[H]is lawyers, Theodore Poulos, of Munster, and Leonard Goodman, of Chicago, argued Philpot deserved the benefit of reasonable doubt because Philpot's former lawyer, David Saks, erroneously advised Philpot he was within the law.
They said Philpot returned the money, with interest, two years ago when he learned of the error.
"Is it a federal crime not to know all the statutes in the law books? He was trying to do the right thing. That's the essence of good faith," Goodman said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson, who won the conviction, told jurors Philpot's "ignorance" defense was absurd.
"Take into consideration his education, training, his intelligence. How could someone who had been in office for a decade think he could pay himself whatever he wants, whenever he wants?
Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 26, 2012 01:39 PM
Posted to Indiana Government