Philpot appeals fed conviction; asks for new trial
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org September 25, 2012 4:08PM
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:17AM
Former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot wants a federal judge to throw out his conviction on theft and wire fraud charges and to grant him a new trial.
Philpot claims in two motions, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, that there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty of illegally taking more than $24,000 while he was the Lake County clerk and that the jury was prejudiced by statements federal attorneys made during closing arguments.
Philpot was found guilty in August of the five counts related to money he paid himself from a fund that was supposed to be used to supplement the pay of county employees who help collect child support payments. State law, however, required that an elected official had to have the approval of the fiscal body, in this case the Lake County Council, to take the money. The County Council never approved the payments for Philpot.
According to his motion to vacate, Philpot claims no one specifically testified that he was the one to create a payroll schedule that paid him and two of his top administrators far more money than the employees who actually worked in child support.
The motion also claims that evidence did not show that Philpot had actually read any of the contracts with the state for the money or that the contracts even mentioned the specific state law.
“Accordingly, the only way for a jury to infer guilt from this evidence would be to engage in speculation, that Philpot not only read the agreements but that they motivated him to research Indiana law and eventually find the requirement about council approval which is nowhere referenced in these agreements,” Philpot’s attorney Leonard Goodman wrote in the motion.
The contracts did say, however, that Philpot must abide by state law.
A motion for a new trial claims that because the evidence did not exist, federal attorneys made prejudicial statements during closing arguments that implied the evidence did exist.
“The government was able to obtain its conviction by inflammatory and misleading rhetoric that had no relation to the actual evidence presented at trial,” the motion says.
For instance, the motion says, federal attorneys claimed the contracts with the state did mention the law overseeing elected officials getting money from the fund.
The motion also says that the jury should never have been given an instruction about Philpot relying on the advice of his lawyer because he did not use that defense and that the defense should have been allowed to recall Lake County Council’s attorney John Dull. The defense had already rested when it decided to try to recall Dull. U.S. District Judge James Moody denied the request.
A date for sentencing has not been set yet.