Philpot sentencing: He wants probation, community service
Former Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot Jr. doesn’t think he should serve any time in prison following his federal public corruption conviction last summer.
Federal attorneys think the recommended one to three years in prison isn’t enough.
Both sides argued in sentencing memorandums filed Thursday and Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond for just how Philpot should be sentenced for illegally paying himself $24,703 from a state fund used to reimburse county employees who help collect child-support payments.
A federal jury found Philpot guilty in August on five counts of theft and mail fraud. Philpot, who was Lake County clerk during the time, was legally barred from increasing his salary without the approval of the Lake County Council, and federal attorneys argued during trial that the council never gave approval.
The current federal sentencing guidelines recommend he serve one to three years in prison on the five counts of theft and mail fraud. Philpot’s attorney Kerry Conner argues in her filing that he should instead serve a period of probation including community service.
The filing says the guidelines don’t give Philpot credit for accepting responsibility, although he never admitted his guilt in the case and continues to insist he never knew about the state law banning him from taking the money. Credit for accepting responsibility is usually given to defendants who plead guilty.
He did pay back the money plus more than $5,000 in interest after the Post-Tribune first broke the story in January 2010, which Conner said shows he did accept responsibility.
“The Jan. 29, 2010, Post-Tribune article did not uncover a crime,” the filing says. “The article did, however, alert Mr. Philpot to seek a second legal opinion regarding his receipt of the (child-support) funds.”
That is also why Philpot’s sentencing range shouldn’t include a loss amount of more than $24,000, which helps to increase how much time it recommends he serves, Conner argues.
The filing goes on to say that Philpot has already suffered from his conviction, including preventing him from ever running for office again because he is a felon. He also lost his medical licence, will likely lose his legal license, took to drinking and has to take medication to help control his anxiety and other issues.
“He has paid with his reputation, his professional licenses and his career,” the filing says. “He has been devastated emotionally and financially.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson calls for a longer sentence, however, in the government’s filing. He notes Philpot used other people to hide his crime, such as paying other high-ranking employees in his office far more than he paid the people who did the actual work of collecting child support payments.
Although the payments to those high-ranking employees were not illegal, Benson says in the filing, they show that Philpot was trying to camouflage his actions.
“The motive for this crime was simple greed, at the expense of the public trust,” the filing says.
Benson argues that the continued public corruption in Lake County supports sentencing Philpot to more than three years in prison, although he does not request a specific amount.
Philpot is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.