ILNews

Prosecutor story was misleading

April 14, 2010
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Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

As a longstanding member of the Indianapolis Bar and reader of the Indiana Lawyer, I was surprised and very disappointed to see an article appearing in Indiana Lawyer daily (Mon., April 5, 2010) – "Prosecutor ordered lenient deal for business partner’s client" – suggesting that a sentence reduction provided to Guilford Forney was based not solely on the merits. The assertion is completely baseless and the article contains false statements and insinuations that could easily have been avoided had reporter Cory Schouten properly researched the story by calling me or other knowledgeable people to check the facts.

Specifically, the Indiana Lawyer falsely reported:

“Defense attorney Bruce D. Donaldson, of Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg LLP, last year persuaded Wyser to support a modification of the murder conviction justified by good behavior and an impressive educational track record while in prison. Forney was released on April 4, 2009, and is slated to serve two years on work release, followed by one year on probation.”

In fact, I did nothing to persuade Mr. Wyser or anyone else at the Prosecutor’s Office to support this sentence modification. To the contrary, this was solely the result of the family’s own efforts.

Specifically, Mr. Forney’s mother, Carlene Heeter, had a chance encounter with Carl Brizzi at a local restaurant and asked Mr. Brizzi if he would look into her son’s case. This led to a series of meetings and discussions within the prosecutor’s office that I was not invited to and took no part in, including at least one face-to-face meeting with Mr. Forney that I am aware of. Some time later Mrs. Heeter called me with the good news that the Prosecutor’s Office had decided to support a sentence modification request.

I had no involvement whatsoever in this entire process leading up to the prosecutor’s decision. I played no role in “persuading” the Prosecutor’s Office to support a sentence modification, and the story is false in stating otherwise. Rather, I have been friends of Mr. Forney’s family for nearly 10 years, and after the Prosecutor’s Office decided to support a sentence modification, Mrs. Heeter asked for my help documenting the agreement that had already been reached. I did so on a pro bono basis as a favor to the family, filing an appearance for Mr. Forney and appearing at the hearing before the judge to request approval of the sentence modification.

The insinuation that Prosecutor Brizzi was influenced by political contributions or his relationship with Barnes & Thornburg LLP is simply nonsense. Had this charge been made to me I could have disproven it easily. Specifically, nearly three years ago as a friend of Mr. Forney’s family I shared with Mr. Brizzi my personal views that Mr. Forney’s sentence was unduly harsh. My request went nowhere, and I was finally informed about a year later that the Prosecutor’s Office would not support a sentence modification. I had no further involvement with the Prosecutor’s Office on the matter until Mrs. Heeter contacted me with the good news that her own initiative with Prosecutor Brizzi had led to a favorable decision. Thus, it is beyond doubt that not only was my attempt at persuasion ineffective, but that Barnes & Thornburg’s supposed “relationship” with Mr. Brizzi was irrelevant to such decisions.

Thus, not only did the Indiana Lawyer get the facts wrong and mislead its readers, it made an unfounded and harmful insinuation about me and my law firm. Of course, in so doing, the Indiana Lawyer has also injured its own reputation and credibility as a fair and reliable source of information. In short, inaccurate and unfair reporting harms everyone.

Bruce D. Donaldson
Barnes & Thornburg
Indianapolis
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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