ILNews

State wants detailed audit of corruption money

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2009
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In the first minutes of a federal court hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Senior Judge James Moody told attorneys he wasn't going to order a state-supervised audit of East Chicago's finances, as the Indiana Attorney General's Office was asking. But his stance may have changed.

Following five hours of testimony and arguments in the civil racketeering case, Judge Moody realized the scope of the action being proposed in the suit against former Mayor Robert Pastrick and top aides - mainly six Pastrick political allies now known as the Sidewalk Six - who've been found civilly liable for running a corrupt enterprise.

Arguing on behalf of the Indiana Attorney General's Office, Chicago attorney Patrick M. Collins - who is acting as a special deputy attorney general - tried to convince Judge Moody that Pastrick and James Fife III could be held liable for more than $100 million in the case targeting the years of corruption that lingers in some form today.

Aside from the sidewalks-for-votes money used in the 1999 primary election, the suit also focuses on the Second Century and the Foundations of East Chicago, for-profit and non-profit recipients, respectively, of casino money. Both are embroiled in ongoing state court litigation as the attorney general and current East Chicago mayor fight to get those organizations to publicly disclose what the casino cash was used for during the Pastrick administration.

In a memorandum for injunctive relief filed June 2, the Attorney General's Office proposed that the State Board of Accounts review and report to the court what the full economic damages have been from the Pastrick corruption. The audit would assess the current financial conditions of East Chicago, the amounts and purposes of casino funds disbursed, and any other structural or systematic problems in the city, the brief stated.

As the hearing opened Tuesday, Judge Moody said he'd reviewed the brief and wasn't going to order an audit because he didn't find enough legal justification, that he wasn't convinced the Attorney General's Office could do it on its own accord, and that he didn't see it justified at such a late stage in this case.

But Collins argued that the start of the remedy phase was the only time that part of the remedy could be used, not during the trial preparation, and that any testimony at trial also could be used in the damages and remedy phase.

The state called five witnesses, including the former city controller Ed Maldonado, who's serving 130 months in prison after his conviction in the criminal Sidewalk Six case. He testified that Pastrick and Fife headed a political machine that misguided millions of dollars; while he signed the checks and knew of the activity, they were ultimately the ones leading the corruption. A state Board of Accounts auditor testified that she'd reviewed the city finances before; however, because casino monies were diverted to for-profit and non-profit trusts or organizations, she couldn't fully see the scope of the Pastrick activity. A former Internal Revenue Service agent and two other city officials also testified about how East Chicago is still recovering from the Pastrick legacy.

"The Pastrick political machine essentially took over the city and ruled it for personal and political gain of Mayor Pastrick," attorney Joel Levin said for the state during closings. "The city was the epitome of a political machine, and politics influenced this city in every way, shape, and form. But Your Honor can do something to unwind that legacy."

Notre Dame University Law School professor G. Robert Blakey, a racketeering law expert who helped draft the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act about four decades ago, told the judge that this is a case of first impression nationally. The judge is basically able to do anything he wants as allowed under the expansive RICO statute, Blakey said. He asked the judge to order a forensic audit - one that goes beyond the numbers and includes interviews and extensive research - to determine how the casino money was used under Pastrick's agreement. That could reveal the extent of damages that should be repaid to taxpayers, he said.

Blakey urged the judge to consider all remedial options possible under the RICO statute, including the use of liens, a trustee, constructive trust, or asset forfeiture. Typical antitrust cases have used inspection audits, and that could be ordered here also, he said.

"There's something about a federal court," Blakey said. "People pay a lot of attention to a federal court order. What we're asking is that you do justice ... for the people of East Chicago."

While Pastrick didn't appear Tuesday, his attorney Michael W. Bosch represented him in court and Fife represented himself. Neither presented specific arguments, but they did question specific aspects of the state's case during witness testimony.

Bosch said during closing the state has given the former mayor "a free pass," and that Pastrick should be held responsible for nominal damages.

"You get a buck," he said. "Triple that, you get three bucks."

Attorneys have until June 22 to file their findings of fact and conclusions, and Judge Moody will then consider what happens next.

More coverage about this case can be found in the June 10-23, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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