Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s appeal hinges on the following question: Was his attorney, Carl Brizzi, incompetent or did the decision not to present much of a defense boil down to an agreed-upon “legal strategy” that went wrong? Despite a long day of legal arguments Thursday, mixed in with some testimony from two witnesses — one expert and White’s wife, Michelle — little progress was made in answering that question. Hamilton Superior Court Judge Daniel Pfleging instead said he wanted to hear from White and Brizzi. White, who is trying to erase his felony convictions for theft and voter fraud, spent the day beside his new attorney, Andrea Ciobanu, who struggled to put on her case after the judge dismissed several of the arguments she had prepared.
Pfleging agreed with special prosecutors from the state that many of White’s arguments for post-conviction relief, including flawed jury instructions and a contention that his conviction violated state and federal law, already had been argued and answered in the previous trial.
But Pfleging denied the state’s attempt to dismiss the “incompetent counsel” argument, allowing Ciobanu to proceed with trying to show that Brizzi did not do his job.
A onetime leader among Republicans in Hamilton County, White is facing a one-year, home-detention sentence unless he can win his legal fight.