February 4, 2012 / 2:41 PM / 7 years ago

Jury convicts Indiana elections chief

NOBLESVILLE, Ind (Reuters) - An Indiana jury convicted embattled Republican Secretary of State Charlie White in the early hours of Saturday on six out of seven felony charges including perjury, theft and voter fraud.

The jury reached its verdict at 2:28 a.m. after deliberating for about 12 hours. They acquitted White on charges of fraud on a financial institution.

White was indicted last year on seven counts stemming in part from accusations that he lied about his home address while serving on the Fishers Town Council so that he could retain a stipend.

Council members are elected to represent a district and must resign if they leave that area.

White had maintained he was living in the basement of his ex-wife’s home within the district he represented. Prosecutors introduced documents they believed told a different story, that he lived outside the district with his fiancee.

Under Indiana law, any public officer convicted of a felony must be removed from office. White’s conviction was expected to spur efforts by Democrats to have him replaced as secretary of state by the man he defeated in 2010, Vop Osili.

Complying with state law, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels on Saturday appointed Deputy Secretary of State Jerry Bonnet, an employee of the office since 2005, to replace White.

Daniels said in a statement his appointment could be moot if the courts lesson White’s felony to a misdemeanor, allowing White to return to office. If the conviction is not altered, Daniels said he would quickly make a permanent appointment.

White, an attorney and a former chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, has remained secretary of state despite the criminal indictment and civil lawsuits that have challenged the validity of his election to state office.

The Hamilton County criminal trial opened Tuesday and wrapped up on Friday. Jurors began deliberations at about 2:30 p.m. local time on Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors submitted document after document, including cellular telephone records, in seeking to prove White, 42, deceived people while serving on the council.

The seven-count indictment even contended that White lied on his marriage license application and on an application to vote in a special election.

Using his ex-wife’s address allowed White to retain a $1,000-a-month stipend for his council seat and continue to pursue his political ambitions, prosecutors said.

White’s defense attorney, former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi, said White worked hard as a town council member, none of his votes were voided, and questioned whether White was a target of an overzealous prosecution.

Brizzi dismissed the cell phone records as not providing a precise location of where White was calling from and said the state’s case was based on assumptions and innuendo. The defense called no witnesses to testify on White’s behalf.

White is a former chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County. He has remained secretary of state despite the criminal indictment and civil lawsuits that have challenged the validity of his election to state office.

Separately, a Marion County judge in December ruled that White was not eligible to run for secretary of state in 2010 because he was not properly registered at his own address. White has been allowed to stay in office while he appeals that ruling.

The Marion County judge ruled that the Democrat White defeated by more than 340,000 votes in 2010, Vop Osili, should be declared the winner of the election.

No date was set for sentencing.

Editing by David Bailey and Tim Gaynor

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