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Defense attorneys in Bales case trash former co-defendant

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SOUTH BEND — Indianapolis attorney and developer Paul J. Page is no longer a co-defendant in the fraud trial of real estate broker John M. Bales and a partner after agreeing to a plea deal, but you wouldn't know it from the action Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Only now, rather than federal prosecutors, it's defense attorneys for Bales and co-defendant Bill Spencer who are targeting Page.

The defense hopes to convince the jury that it was Page who committed "financial fraud" as the official owner of an Elkhart office building leased to a state agency. The government alleges Bales secretly put up the equity for Page to buy the building and get a loan in exchange for a cut of profits, in violation of his firm's real estate contract with the state of Indiana. Spencer helped arrange the transaction.

In his opening statement, Spencer attorney Bernard Pylitt called Page a "pig" for withdrawing $50,000 out of an account tied to the Elkhart building, a "pig" for turning down reasonable offers to sell the building, and a "thief" for collecting more than $150,000 in income from a building he got for free.

Pylitt suggested Bales and Spencer had no choice but to deal with Page's demands so they could meet a deadline to secure safe office space for the Department of Child Services. Other developers had turned down the deal, and Page only wanted in if he didn't have to put up any money.

Bales attorney Larry Mackey noted that his client is the only individual to lose money on the deal. Bales invested about $362,000, while Page borrowed the rest — about $931,000, including funds for preparing the space for occupancy — from Huntington Bank. He told the bank he would be the 100-percent owner with no other debt.

"Paul Page lied to Huntington Bank," Mackey said. "We're not going to disagree with that. Bales and Spencer had nothing to do with that lie."

Neither side has mentioned in court that Page also was charged with a crime, which is likely a strategic decision since there's no rule preventing disclosure. Page agreed in early January to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in exchange for his cooperation with federal prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Barrett has indicated in court that he does not expect to call Page.

Indianapolis attorney Robert W. Hammerle, who represents Page, said the name-calling reflects more on Bales and Spencer than his client.

"These types of childish accusations remind me of Lance Armstrong's personal dismissal of former teammates who, like Paul Page, came forward and told the truth," Hammerle wrote in an email. "Once he was forced to come out from hiding, Mr. Armstrong now looks like a colossal cheating fool, and who can trust him?"

The description of his client as a "pig", he said, is actually an improvement over the original label Bales chose when he named the limited liability company that owned the Elkhart building L&BAB LLC, which allegedly stands for "lazy and broke-ass bitch."

"Like it or not, the evidence is clear that Mr. Bales and Mr. Spencer orchestrated this matter from the beginning," he said. "Whether they committed a crime is up to the jury to decide, but any attempt to personally diminish Mr. Page says more about their character than anyone else."

The government opened its case Tuesday with testimony from Carrie Henderson, who led the Indiana Department of Administration and oversaw Venture's work from May 2006 to January 2009.

She said she viewed Venture as a partner and overall was satisfied with the company's work for state government on a demanding contract.

But she also recalled a conversation between her and Bales that may prove critical for the government's case. She testified that, early in her tenure, Bales suggested that Venture could provide financing for state-leased buildings to help close deals.

"I told him that was creative, but we absolutely couldn't do that kind of deal with the state of Indiana, even if fully disclosed," Henderson said. "I made a very strong statement to say we can't do that kind of deal here. You have to be transparent. You can't work both sides of a transaction."

Barrett, the prosecutor, asked Henderson whether IBJ's coverage of Bales after her tenure at IDOA gave her concern. She responded that she couldn't be certain all of the information in the stories was accurate.

On cross examination, Mackey sought to broaden the jury's focus away from the Elkhart deal, asking Henderson about Venture's work on the disposition of surplus state property and other lease deals around the state.

He also drew attention to the fact she didn't move to edit Venture's contract, upon annual renewals, even after the conversation with Bales in which she expressed her disapproval of the firm working both sides of a deal.

Later, Pylitt asked Henderson why she ignored calls from Barnes & Thornburg attorneys and a defense-hired private investigator to sit down for an interview, after meeting with prosecutors repeatedly. Her response: She couldn't say no to a subpoena.

The trial resumed Wednesday morning with testimony from former IDOA Commissioner Mark W. Everson, who served after Henderson. He began his testimony late Tuesday.

Another government witness likely to testify Wednesday is Matthew Dyer, who served as Venture's controller and is expected to address the nature of the deal between L&BAB LLC, which owned the Elkhart building, and the Bales-controlled BAB Equity LLC, which provided the down payment.

The defense has described BAB Equity's cash infusion as a loan, but has not addressed why a lender would use the word "equity" in its name since equity, by definition, means ownership.

The defense is concerned enough about Dyer's potential testimony that it dug into his background and is asking U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. for permission to introduce evidence to challenge his credibility. Specifically, the defense alleges Dyer submitted a false insurance claim on a stolen vehicle at the same time he was giving false testimony to the FBI.
 

The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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