Thomas R. Philpot, the former Lake County clerk convicted of taking more than $24,000 in federal funds earmarked for child support and using that money to pay himself bonuses, will not receive a new trial, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held this week.
In United States of America v. Thomas R. Philpot, 13-1465, Philpot appealed his convictions of two counts of mail fraud and one count of theft from a federally funded program. He was elected clerk in 2004 and served until 2009. He took money from the IV-D incentive fund to pay himself bonuses in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009.
The judge in the case acquitted Philpot on two charges based on testimony that he did not learn he could not give himself the bonuses under Indiana statute until 2008. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000. His law license is suspended.
Philpot raised numerous issues on appeal, including that pre-trial publicity required his trial to be moved to Illinois and misconduct during trial. The 7th Circuit found none of his claims had merit. The judges pointed out that the jury pool was drawn from approximately 600,000 people and most of the media coverage of his theft occurred a year before the trial began.
The judges also found that a reasonable jury could conclude Philpot knew his bonuses violated state law after consulting with an attorney about the applicable statutes. The jury could have sided with Philpot and concluded he acted in good faith when he took the bonuses in January and October 2009, but it did not, the appeals court pointed out. Instead, it found he acted knowingly and with intent to defraud when he accepted the IV-D money without approval.
The 7th Circuit also rejected his claim he should receive a lesser sentence because he returned the money before the county detected that it was missing.