Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich

Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich

John J. Watkins, The Times

HAMMOND — A federal judge has reset the sentencing of former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich to take place Jan. 16.

U.S. District Judge James T. Moody ordered postponement of the sentence, which initially had been set to take place Wednesday, at the request of the former sheriff's defense team for more preparation time.

Bryan Truitt, one of Buncich's defense attorneys, complained last week that government prosecutors have hinted at new information they intend to use to lengthen any prison term the 71-year-old law enforcement veteran could receive for his bribery and fraud convictions.

He stated last week in a court memo he has yet to see any documents to support the government's new allegations, which haven't yet been made public.

A U.S. District Court jury found Buncich guilty Aug. 24 on six counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery.

The U.S. attorney's office presented evidence at Buncich's federal trial in August that Buncich solicited and accepted bribes from Scott Jurgensen, a former Merrillville police officer, towing firm owner and undercover informant for the FBI, and William "Willie" Szarmach, a Lake Station towing firm owner who was charged with Buncich, and then took a plea deal to testify against the former sheriff.

Jurgensen and Szarmach said they bribed the former sheriff to receive more lucrative towing assignments from county police. Timothy Downs, the sheriff's former second-in-command, said he sold Buncich's political fundraising tickets on public time to them and other county towing vendors, who Buncich had the power to hire and terminate.

Buncich took the witness stand over three days to deny wrongdoing, saying he never promised nor delivered favors for political donations.

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Lake County reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.