Court upholds ex-Indiana county clerk's conviction
Last Updated: 43 days ago
CROWN POINT, Ind. - A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of Lake County's former county clerk, who was charged with pocketing thousands of dollars in federal money as a salary bonus.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling that there was strong evidence Thomas Philpot knowingly violated state law when he stole more than $24,000 from child support incentive funds he controlled.
A federal jury found Philpot guilty in August 2012 of theft and fraud charges related to his previous position as county clerk. He was sentenced in January to 18 months in prison.
Philpot's defense lawyers argued that he couldn't get a fair trial because of pretrial publicity generated by media accounts of the case. But the appeals court rejected that argument in Tuesday's ruling, finding that the stories were factual and appeared more than a year before the trial took place.
The Times of Munster reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson argued during trial that Philpot, a lawyer and experienced public official, knew it was criminal because he tried to surreptitiously get council approval for the bonuses in 2008.
In that case, he hid his request in a budget transfer request he had an aide place on the council's agenda.
Philpot returned the money with interest in 2010 after his bonuses became public knowledge through news reports and claimed he mistakenly took the money because he didn't understand the intricacies of the law.
Philpot served three terms as county coroner and two as county clerk. He ran unsuccessfully for Hammond mayor and for county sheriff. He is the latest of more than two dozen elected Lake County officials convicted of public corruption since 1985.
The Post-Tribune reports that Philpot is serving his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Mich., and is expected to be released in July.
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