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Lawyers ask for $3 or $109 million in RICO case

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A federal judge is being asked to impose damages ranging anywhere from $3 to $109 million in a landmark racketeering suit.

Those amounts came Monday in the findings of fact and conclusions of law, which U.S. District Senior Judge James Moody in Hammond had asked both sides to submit following a full-day hearing June 9.

Now, Senior Judge Moody will decide how to proceed on the damages award and request for relief. He hasn't set any court proceedings or announced when that decision may happen, but the filings in the Northern District of Indiana leave him with options.

With that monetary debate, a new player is trying to get involved in the 2004 civil racketeering case: the Foundations of East Chicago, a non-profit corporation that receives a portion of the East Chicago riverboat casino monies. The organization filed a motion with the court Monday to intervene, with attorneys for Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg entering an appearance. Specifically, the Foundations of East Chicago is countering a key aspect of what the Indiana Attorney General's Office is going after - casino revenue money filtered through that organization by former Mayor Robert Pastrick, who used it for his own personal and political purposes.

While the 2004 case mostly centers on the $25 million of public money used to get votes for the 1999 primary election for Pastrick and his top aides, it also targets casino revenue money that the political machine is accused of misspending during the final years of Pastrick's 32-year reign.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants the judge to look beyond the monetary award and impose other relief allowed by the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, specifically a state-supervised forensic audit of East Chicago finances and those casino funds.

According to the proposed findings filed, the state says that actual damages total $32,187,242, an amount that includes $1.6 million in fees paid to defense lawyers of a dozen city officials who've been convicted on federal criminal charges in the Sidewalk Six case. With treble damages, the amount would total $96.5 million - pre-judgment interest from the date the suit was filed in 2004 would boost that amount to nearly $109 million.

But Pastrick's attorney, Michael Bosch with Bosch & Dedelow in Highland, said the state failed to make its case, hasn't proved the damages it is trying to recover, and is wrongly going after the East Chicago casino organizations that aren't parties in this case.

Echoing a claim made during closing arguments at the June 9 hearing, Bosch wrote in his proposed conclusion that, "Based on the Plaintiff's utter lack of proof, or offer of good proof, this Court cannot award anything other than nominal damages" and should award them $1, or $3 if tripled by treble damages statute.

Arguing that the casino foundation isn't a party in this case, the organization's attorneys' 13-page motion asks the court to deny any state-supervised forensic audit that may involve that organization.

The brief states there's no legal basis for including Foundations and that the state is barred from seeking relief as it may relate to the casino organization.

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