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Former Marion County deputy prosecutor agrees to plead guilty to bribery

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The top deputy under former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge for his role in the early release of a woman convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana announced a indictment against David Wyser Monday afternoon in Indianapolis. Wyser received one charge of bribery, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

"For too long people in this city have had reason to doubt their government," U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said at the Monday press conference. "Justice is not for sale."

Wyser, 53, has agreed to cooperate with authorities as they continue an investigation led by the FBI, federal officials said. Brizzi is a target, according to IBJ sources, but has not been charged with any crime and has denied wrongdoing.

Wyser, who was Brizzi's chief trial deputy, in 2010 ran an unsuccessful race for Hamilton County prosecutor after Brizzi opted against running for a third term in Marion County. Wyser has since served as a deputy prosecutor in Madison County.

The case against Wyser centers around the early release of Paula Willoughby, who had been convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme. Her father, Harrison Epperly, made large political contributions to Brizzi and Wyser as their office was considering a potential sentence modification.

Willoughby was sentenced to 110 years in prison in 1991 after her husband was gunned down outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An appeal shrank the sentence to 70 years. The modification cut it to time served, and Willoughby was freed in July 2009.

Epperly gave at least $29,000 to Brizzi from 2006 to 2008, and also donated $2,500 to Wyser. The latter came in 2009, before the filing of the sentence modification in court.

The charging document alleges that a $2,500 contribution to Wyser was "a reward for his sentence modification recommendation" in the Willoughby case.

Both Brizzi and Wyser later returned their donations, many of which came through Epperly’s company EMSP LLC.

At the time, Wyser told IBJ newsgathering partner WXIN Fox59 that the donations had no role in the modification, which he argued was justified based on Willoughby’s rehabilitation and family issues. One of Willoughby’s sons had been killed by a drunken driver in 2005, leaving another son with no immediate family members other than his imprisoned mother.

Current Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry on Monday morning declined to comment on Wyser and any charges brought against him.

Wyser was admitted to practice in 1997 and has no disciplinary history, according to the Roll of Attorneys.

The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.
 

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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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