White Found Guilty; Daniels Names Replacement

White Found Guilty On 6 Of 7 Felony Charges

Embattled Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was found guilty on six of seven felony charges early Saturday morning after a jury deliberated his fate for more than 12 hours, setting up uncertainty over who will ultimately gain control of the office.

Per Indiana law, White cannot continue to serve as secretary of state because he has a felony conviction, and Gov. Mitch Daniels moved quickly to appoint Jerry Bonnet, an employee of the office since 2005, to the job on an interim basis.

"This is an exceptionally busy time in the secretary of state's office, as signatures for president, U.S. Senate and governor are being certified this month," a statement from Daniels read. "Jerry, a Yorktown native, has agreed to serve until I either select someone else to serve the remainder of the current term or until the prior occupant is reinstated."

Daniels said he is not making a permanent appointment because the courts could decide to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor, which would mean White could return to office.

"If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly," Daniels said.

The Indiana Democratic Party released a statement Saturday morning blasting White and Daniels.

“This is an important day for Indiana Democrats. It's vindication for more than a year's worth of effort to know that Charlie committed a crime and will be punished for that crime," read the statement from Chairman Dan Parker. "The shame of the crime is that Hoosiers have had a public servant in office for more than a year whose recklessness and criminal behavior has tarnished our third-highest state office."

White was convicted of false registration, voting in another precinct, submitting a false ballot, theft and two counts of perjury. He was acquitted on a fraud charge.

The Hamilton County jury began deliberations about 12:30 p.m. Friday after closing arguments from prosecutors and White's defense attorney.

White expressed no outward emotion as the verdict was read and later said outside the courtroom: "I'm disappointed for my family and the people who supported me."

White and his attorneys said the fate of his elected post remains unknown and that Daniels or the state Supreme Court will have to decide.

White's attorney, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, said he will ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors because his client has no criminal background and has a long record of public service.

Prosecutors accused White of using his ex-wife's address instead of the address of a condo he had with his fiancee when he registered to vote in the May 2010 Republican primary. They argued that White didn't want to give up his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary after moving from that district.

White, a Republican who took office in January 2011, was indicted in March 2011 by a Hamilton County grand jury.

During his closing arguments, special prosecutor Dan Sigler Jr. argued that White knew that he was committing voter fraud but did it anyway for political power.

"If we aren't going to enforce election law against the secretary of state of Indiana, who are we going to enforce it against?" Sigler said.

Brizzi rested his case Thursday without presenting a defense. He told the jury during his closing arguments Friday that White's name was on the condo's bills and documents because he was paying for his fiancee and her children to live there, not because he was living at that address.

"Their case is based entirely on assumption, innuendo and leaps," Brizzi told jurors. He challenged the voter fraud allegation, arguing there is no evidence to support it.

Republican special prosecutor John Dowd said he's also unsure about the fate of White's position, but expressed satisfaction about the verdict.

"We believe it was about someone who violated the law and cheated the system -- and gamed the system," Dowd said. "And, obviously, the jury thought the same way."

White, 42, has said the charges ignored a complicated personal life in which he was trying to raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage and campaign for the statewide office he won in November 2010. He said he stayed at his ex-wife's house when he wasn't on the road campaigning and did not live in the condo until after he remarried.

Democrats have argued that Vop Osili, who lost the 2010 election to White, should be appointed to the position. A Marion County judge ruled in a separate case involving White's eligibility to run in the 2010 election that Osili should replace White, but that ruling is on hold, pending an appeal.

Attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman, who watched the trial and spoke on behalf of Indiana Democrats following the verdict, said the party believes White's conviction further affirms that Osili should be secretary of state.

"(White) has been convicted, but the judge has left it open for misdemeanor sentencing. That's something that's going to have to be examined," she said.

"There’s only one thing that should happen now: Vop Osili should become secretary of state, and we should put the embarrassment that is Charlie White behind us," Parker said in his statement.

No sentencing date was set for White.

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