ILNews

State wants detailed audit of corruption money

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2009
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In the first minutes of a federal court hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Senior Judge James Moody told attorneys he wasn't going to order a state-supervised audit of East Chicago's finances, as the Indiana Attorney General's Office was asking. But his stance may have changed.

Following five hours of testimony and arguments in the civil racketeering case, Judge Moody realized the scope of the action being proposed in the suit against former Mayor Robert Pastrick and top aides - mainly six Pastrick political allies now known as the Sidewalk Six - who've been found civilly liable for running a corrupt enterprise.

Arguing on behalf of the Indiana Attorney General's Office, Chicago attorney Patrick M. Collins - who is acting as a special deputy attorney general - tried to convince Judge Moody that Pastrick and James Fife III could be held liable for more than $100 million in the case targeting the years of corruption that lingers in some form today.

Aside from the sidewalks-for-votes money used in the 1999 primary election, the suit also focuses on the Second Century and the Foundations of East Chicago, for-profit and non-profit recipients, respectively, of casino money. Both are embroiled in ongoing state court litigation as the attorney general and current East Chicago mayor fight to get those organizations to publicly disclose what the casino cash was used for during the Pastrick administration.

In a memorandum for injunctive relief filed June 2, the Attorney General's Office proposed that the State Board of Accounts review and report to the court what the full economic damages have been from the Pastrick corruption. The audit would assess the current financial conditions of East Chicago, the amounts and purposes of casino funds disbursed, and any other structural or systematic problems in the city, the brief stated.

As the hearing opened Tuesday, Judge Moody said he'd reviewed the brief and wasn't going to order an audit because he didn't find enough legal justification, that he wasn't convinced the Attorney General's Office could do it on its own accord, and that he didn't see it justified at such a late stage in this case.

But Collins argued that the start of the remedy phase was the only time that part of the remedy could be used, not during the trial preparation, and that any testimony at trial also could be used in the damages and remedy phase.

The state called five witnesses, including the former city controller Ed Maldonado, who's serving 130 months in prison after his conviction in the criminal Sidewalk Six case. He testified that Pastrick and Fife headed a political machine that misguided millions of dollars; while he signed the checks and knew of the activity, they were ultimately the ones leading the corruption. A state Board of Accounts auditor testified that she'd reviewed the city finances before; however, because casino monies were diverted to for-profit and non-profit trusts or organizations, she couldn't fully see the scope of the Pastrick activity. A former Internal Revenue Service agent and two other city officials also testified about how East Chicago is still recovering from the Pastrick legacy.

"The Pastrick political machine essentially took over the city and ruled it for personal and political gain of Mayor Pastrick," attorney Joel Levin said for the state during closings. "The city was the epitome of a political machine, and politics influenced this city in every way, shape, and form. But Your Honor can do something to unwind that legacy."

Notre Dame University Law School professor G. Robert Blakey, a racketeering law expert who helped draft the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act about four decades ago, told the judge that this is a case of first impression nationally. The judge is basically able to do anything he wants as allowed under the expansive RICO statute, Blakey said. He asked the judge to order a forensic audit - one that goes beyond the numbers and includes interviews and extensive research - to determine how the casino money was used under Pastrick's agreement. That could reveal the extent of damages that should be repaid to taxpayers, he said.

Blakey urged the judge to consider all remedial options possible under the RICO statute, including the use of liens, a trustee, constructive trust, or asset forfeiture. Typical antitrust cases have used inspection audits, and that could be ordered here also, he said.

"There's something about a federal court," Blakey said. "People pay a lot of attention to a federal court order. What we're asking is that you do justice ... for the people of East Chicago."

While Pastrick didn't appear Tuesday, his attorney Michael W. Bosch represented him in court and Fife represented himself. Neither presented specific arguments, but they did question specific aspects of the state's case during witness testimony.

Bosch said during closing the state has given the former mayor "a free pass," and that Pastrick should be held responsible for nominal damages.

"You get a buck," he said. "Triple that, you get three bucks."

Attorneys have until June 22 to file their findings of fact and conclusions, and Judge Moody will then consider what happens next.

More coverage about this case can be found in the June 10-23, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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