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Legal jostling results in justice delayed

A year after his conviction on voter fraud and other felony charges, former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White has yet to begin his sentence – though no appeal is pending.

White did initiate an appeal but later dropped it, saying he would use a different legal tactic by going back to the Hamilton County court where he was found guilty to seek post-conviction relief.

For a judge to allow a defendant to go free pending appeal is not unusual, particularly someone convicted of a nonviolent crime. The Indiana Court of Appeals granted White’s request to halt the appeal last September, but he has yet to file any new legal action. So special prosecutor Dan Sigler is asking a judge to force White to begin serving his sentence of a year on home detention.

“We assumed he was going to file the post-conviction relief petition right away,” Sigler said. “As long as it was litigated right away, I didn’t have a problem with that. Now it’s going into the fifth month and nothing has been filed.”

White claims he was convicted because of poor representation by his attorney, Carl Brizzi – a former Marion County prosecutor once thought to be a rising star in the GOP.

Codifying an education injustice

Indiana House Republicans are making no pretense this session of their preference for private schools and home-schooling. On Monday, GOP lawmakers voted 62-36 to defeat an amendment that would have given parents of public school students a tax break available to private, parochial and home-schooling families.

Lawmakers two years ago approved a tax deduction for families who home-school or send their children to private or parochial school – with or without a voucher. It amounted to a sort of consolation prize for parents who already were sending their children to private schools and would not benefit from voucher entitlements.

In 2011, the Indiana Department of Revenue said the tax break cost the state about $2.6 million in just its first year. It apparently was not enough – the House has voted to triple the amount of the tax deduction for 2013.

Indiana is one of just eight states where public-school parents must pay for textbooks. For some families, the cost amounts to hundreds of dollars a year. But when Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, offered an amendment to House Bill 1427 to allow parents of students enrolled in public schools to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for textbooks, House Republicans cried foul. The tax break is “a dangerous path to go down,” said Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton.

But it’s a path the GOP-controlled legislature chose to take two years ago. Now it is simply picking winners and losers along the path. Among northeast Indiana lawmakers, Rep. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne was the only Republican to support extending a tax break to parents of public school students.