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.