Federal attorneys fight Philpot on verdict
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org January 15, 2013 2:32PM
Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot (center, in suit) heads back into the Federal Courthouse Friday August 24, 2012 in Hammond, Ind. Philpot's attorneys have asked the the former Lake County clerk and coroner be given no jail time after his conviction for
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:24AM
Federal attorneys say evidence against former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot Jr. was more than enough for a jury to find him guilty of stealing from the government and that the court followed proper procedure in his trial last summer.
The government filed responses Friday and Monday to three motions by Philpot to toss out his conviction on three counts of mail fraud and two counts of theft from a federally funded program.
A federal judge still has to rule on the motions.
A jury at the U.S. District Court in Hammond found Philpot guilty in August of paying himself while county clerk from 2004 to 2009 about $24,000 from a fund used to reimburse county employees who help collect child support payments. State law forbids elected officials from increasing their salaries without permission from their fiscal body, however, and federal attorneys argued the Lake County Council never gave Philpot permission to take the money.
Philpot has since argued that not enough evidence was shown at trial for a jury to reasonably convict him, the jury was given bad instructions and prosecutors made improper remarks during closing arguments to influence the jury.
Philpot’s motions say there’s no evidence he ever read the rules overseeing the money, although he did sign them. His attorneys argued during trial that the law is obscure.
The government disagrees, pointing out the rules actually cite the specific Indiana code and that Philpot, who also served three terms as Lake County coroner, is a veteran politician and a lawyer who should be familiar with laws overseeing elected officials.
“It was not unreasonable for a jury to conclude that Philpot had knowledge of the contents of the very documents he signed,” one government filing says.
The government adds that other evidence supports their case, including the fact that Philpot paid himself and his close associates far more than the people in his office who actually collected the child support payments.
Philpot’s motions also claimed there was no evidence showing he lied to his attorney, David Saks, so he could have reasonably relied on Saks’ opinion telling him it was OK to take the money.
“The statement is in direct contradiction of Saks’ own testimony,” the government says in one of its motions. “ ... On redirect, Saks stated that Philpot had failed to disclose numerous relevant facts necessary to formulate a complete opinion.”
It also disputes that U.S. District Judge James Moody erred by not letting John Dull, attorney for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, testify for the defense. Philpot sought Dull’s legal advice only after the Post-Tribune first reported in 2010 that he had taken the money and 60 days after he had committed the crime. The government says that seeking Dull’s opinion after the fact did not provide him with an excuse during the crime.
“ ... It is not hard to imagine what ulterior motives existed for Philpot in seeking this additional information,” one of the responses says.
Philpot is still scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21, after Moody on Tuesday denied a request by Philpot’s attorney Kerry Connor to delay the hearing. Connor is new to the case and asked for more time to prepare.