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Former Lake County clerk’s convictions upheld by 7th Circuit

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Thomas R. Philpot, the former Lake County clerk convicted of taking more than $24,000 in federal funds earmarked for child support and using that money to pay himself bonuses, will not receive a new trial, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held this week.

In United States of America v. Thomas R. Philpot, 13-1465, Philpot appealed his convictions of two counts of mail fraud and one count of theft from a federally funded program. He was elected clerk in 2004 and served until 2009. He took money from the IV-D incentive fund to pay himself bonuses in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009.

The judge in the case acquitted Philpot on two charges based on testimony that he did not learn he could not give himself the bonuses under Indiana statute until 2008. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000. His law license is suspended.

Philpot raised numerous issues on appeal, including that pre-trial publicity required his trial to be moved to Illinois and misconduct during trial. The 7th Circuit found none of his claims had merit. The judges pointed out that the jury pool was drawn from approximately 600,000 people and most of the media coverage of his theft occurred a year before the trial began.

The judges also found that a reasonable jury could conclude Philpot knew his bonuses violated state law after consulting with an attorney about the applicable statutes. The jury could have sided with Philpot and concluded he acted in good faith when he took the bonuses in January and October 2009, but it did not, the appeals court pointed out. Instead, it found he acted knowingly and with intent to defraud when he accepted the IV-D money without approval.

The 7th Circuit also rejected his claim he should receive a lesser sentence because he returned the money before the county detected that it was missing.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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