County Recorder Found Guilty of Extortion
Source of Title - Reprinted with permission
Morris Carter, a former Lake County recorder, was found guilty of absconding funds on at least separate occasions in 2004 in an effort to “abuse his office,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Indiana.
“I think the message is clear," said Thomas Kirsh II
after the verdict. Kirsh is an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Carter
in the case. "Corruption will not be tolerated in any office at any level."
Due to complex federal sentencing guidelines, Kirsch said it was difficult to determine what kind of sentence Carter will receive, but believes he will serve some prison time for his actions.
“I just wanted my day in court,” said Carter, who denied any wrongdoing throughout the investigation and the trial. “God’s grace is sufficient.”
Carter was found guilty of extortion after he took funds to perform official acts. The prosecution alleged that he used his role to obtain a pre-publication list of tax-sale properties, to arrange for a builder to pass the contractor’s licensing test, and to purge a property lien, according to an article in The Post-Tribune.
Additionally, he allegedly accepted $1,900 from Pete Livas, a Hammond builder and developer. Carter then gave $100 of the funds to Jan Allison, a county official who completed Livas' contractor's licensing test for him.
“If he (Carter) was functioning as a consultant, he was entitled to
receive the money," said Darnail Lyles, the
attorney speaking on behalf of Carter. "Do you think this political figure
is working for free?”
Noting that Carter claimed $1,800 from Livas on his income tax return, Lyles argued that a criminal would not have reported illegally gained funds.
“Even if you find he was a consultant, it makes absolutely no
difference,” Kirsch said. “You can’t take money to perform your job.”
A video was also played for the jury that showed Carter accepting money from Livas to conduct illegal transactions in August 2004. Livas later became a government witness and wore recording devices as proof of his actions and discussions with Carter.
The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before reaching a guilty verdict in the case against Carter. Carter's sentencing will occur on April 11, 2006 before Judge Rudy Lozano.
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