Sunday, March 16, 2014

Joe Hogsett Says He's Getting Tough On Public Corruption

“It doesn’t matter to me what your politics are or what position you hold in your community,” U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett told the Indianapolis Star. “If you violate the public trust, our Public Integrity Working Group will find you, will investigate you, and the U.S. attorney’s office will then prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.” At least that's what he wants you to believe. Those of us who are actually on the front lines up exposing public corruption at the state and local level in Indiana know that Hogsett isn't on our side. Not by a long shot.

The Star article boasting of Hogsett's public corruption fighting efforts highlights three cases he brought this past week in support of his contention that he's getting tough on public corruption only one of which constitutes a case of public corruption. In one case, Hogsett brought a highly questionable civil rights case against a Putnam County deputy sheriff, Terry Smith, who he alleges used excessive force against criminal suspects. No federal case should have been brought, and I expect the deputy will be acquitted if justice prevails. In another case, Hogsett charged the director of the Henry County Department of Child Services with perjury for lying in a case involving a school official who allegedly sexually exploited boys. Others wonder why more serious forms of corruption within DCS have never been prosecuted. The one case last week that falls within the definition of a public corruption case is the charges his office brought against Justin Wykoff, a Bloomington project manager accused of diverting more than $800,000 in funds spent on public works projects that he oversaw.

Hogsett counts in his notch of public corruption cases the single guilty plea he obtained from the former chief deputy in the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, David Wyser. To the shock of those close to the investigation, Hogsett's office failed to bring any other charges in the case, including charges against the well-documented corruption of the former prosecutor, Carl Brizzi, a close friend and business associate of convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham , or the high profile criminal defense attorney for facilitating the payment of a bribe to Wyser to shorten the prison sentence of her client, who had paid a hit man to murder her husband. A number of the other cases he cites are petty cases involving the theft of public funds by low-level government employees and officials, cases which could have just as easily been filed in state court. Hogsett cites other cases that aren't within the technical definition of a public corruption case but which he touts as successes:
  • Derek Walton, a deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, who used a computer at the county jail to surf for child pornography.
  • Indianapolis financier Tim Durham, who stole millions from investors and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, which included giving large contributions to state and local politicians.
  • Donald Sachtleben of Carmel, a retired FBI bomb expert, convicted in a child pornography case that also revealed he had provided classified government information to a reporter.
  • Former Indianapolis attorney William Conour, convicted of stealing millions of dollars he won in personal injury or wrongful death settlements.
  • Keenan Hauke of Fishers, who defrauded more than 60 victims out of $7 million in an investment fraud scheme.
For the record, Joe Hogett recused himself from the Tim Durham prosecution very early on after this blog pointed out that he had a conflict of interest due to the fact that the law firm where he was a partner right before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office had been hired to defend Durham. Although this happened before his arrival, the U.S. Attorney's Office actually thwarted the investigation of Durham early on by withdrawing a civil forfeiture action that it had initially filed against him at the same time the FBI raided Durham's business offices back in November, 2009. That single move hamstrung any hope of recovering anything but a fraction of what Durham stole from thousands of small investors in Ohio. In fact, Hogsett's office made no effort to prosecute other former Durham business partners who learned that he was running a Ponzi scheme long before the FBI raid, but instead of taking that information to federal investigators, used that information to blackmail and extort money from Durham. Elected officials who performed favors for Durham in exchange for his large campaign contributions survived the scandal unscathed.

The fact remains that the theft of public funds in Indiana is at an all time high. It's not happening by the thousands of dollars or even the hundreds of thousands of dollars; it's happening by the millions and tens of millions of dollars at a time in plain sight. Countless numbers of whistle blowers complain that their reports to the local FBI office and Hogsett's office concerning matters of public corruption results in no action. Many believe that they are later retaliated against by government officials because they attempted to blow the whistle on them or, in the case of some law enforcement officers, for daring to investigate public corruption. A whistle blower in the Tim Durham case faced trumped up criminal charges in another state that were later dropped which the whistle blower believed happened at the instigation of law enforcement authorities in Indiana. That whistle blower's complaints to federal and state law enforcement authorities about the Ponzi scheme he was running were ignored for years before anything was done to him.

I truly hope that Hogsett disabuses me of my perceptions of his attitude towards prosecuting public corruption cases, but the proof to date is far from convincing. The reality is that he, like all of his predecessors, was put in the job as U.S. Attorney in Indianapolis because he is a political creature that won't rock the boat for the powers that be. He can't afford to get tough on the worst public corruption occurring in this state if he wants a continued seat at the table with the people to whom he owes the position of power entrusted to him.


Anonymous said...

If Hogsett was serious about cleaning up DCS he would start by investigating former DCS Director Jim Payne also he needs to look into the Brawley murder case. And then look into Mitch Roob and the train wreck he made of FSSA! Also for the love of God somebody investigate DWD! We shall reclaim our state!

Anonymous said...

Joe Hogsett is a failure as U. S. Attorney! It took the Public Integrity section from Washington to handle Lincoln Plowman.

What has he done with Monroe Gray? -The newspaper put their case on page 1, but he is a member of Hogsett's political party.

Frank Straub and the "Regional Operations Center" where millions were wasted....well, no word from Hogsett. -But all matters of information about relatives and under the table payouts appear to be creeping out slowly, thanks to the destruction of evidence by mass-shredding.

The so-called accomplishments were not much to boast about. Porn is not public corruption, it is simply a criminal. His examples of achievements were lame.

Much work is needed. Hogsett is not up to the job.

He got one official who improperly used his power to have a murderer released early...but couldn't make the case against the big boss.

Joe Hogsett is no Patrick Fitzgerald....

Had Enough Indy? said...

The Star article says that pay-to-play isn't a criminal activity. (my sloppy paraphrase)

Do we need laws, or are they on the books?

Flogger said...

The Star is trying to push Smoking Joe Hogsett as some political powerhouse and Central Indiana's # 1 Crime Fighter. Is The Star still trying to convince Smoking Joe to run for Mayor. What a joke.

sandypasquale said...

Murder for hire guiltly or not?...You Decide.