ILNews

Sidewalk 6 trial off; judge to decide penalty

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Less than a week before a state civil racketeering trial was set to begin, a former East Chicago mayor and one of his closest aides have waived their right to defend themselves before a jury in court.

That means U.S. Senior Judge James Moody will decide the fates of former Mayor Robert Pastrick and James Fife III, the only remaining defendants in the four-year-old "Sidewalk 6" suit that was the first of its kind in Indiana and involved a paving-for-votes scandal dating to 1999.

A trial was scheduled to start May 26 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, and was expected to last three weeks. The judge will now decide the case and rule on the amount of damages Pastrick and Fife must pay back to the city and state.

Papers filed Wednesday by Pastrick's attorney, Michael W. Bosch of Highland, and Fife, pro se, indicate they waived their right to a jury trial and that they wouldn't wage a defense in court. The move comes a week after a third co-defendant and former city official, Timothy Raykovich, settled with the Indiana Attorney General's Office and was removed as a defendant.

The case was filed in 2004 under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and alleged that Pastrick ran a scheme to illegally spend $24 million of public money in a paving-for-votes program during the May 1999 Democratic mayoral primary election.

That scandal eventually led to a federal indictment of more than a dozen of Pastrick's administration officials and contractors, but Pastrick, Fife, and Raykovich were never criminally charged.

This civil suit sought to recoup the allegedly misspent money, and the Attorney General's Office reports that most defendants have settled and about $1.2 million has been collected from them. The state has also obtained another $18 million in default judgment orders against other defendants.

Inheriting the case from his predecessor, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said he doesn't expect the state will be able to collect all of the $24 million at issue in the case, but he hopes the suit will prove how deep the East Chicago corruption ran in those years.

Attorneys involved in the case are bound by a gag order and not allowed to speak about details, so the only public information comes from the court filings and docket entries.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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