Philpot seeks acquittal or new trial for federal convictions

2012-09-25T19:15:00Z 2012-09-26T07:24:11Z Philpot seeks acquittal or new trial for federal convictionsMarisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Embattled former Lake County official Tom Philpot is requesting his convictions be overturned on the grounds he didn't have a fair trial, federal court records show.

Philpot, who served as county coroner until his criminal convictions stripped him of office, claims there wasn't enough evidence for the jury to convict him last month of five counts of fraud and theft.

He argues the U.S. attorney's office made "inflammatory and misleading arguments" during closing arguments. He also claims the judge gave improper instruction to the jury and erred by not allowing Philpot to reopen his case and call attorney John Dull after the jury instruction was given, court records show.

Mary Hatton, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment Tuesday.

Philpot's convictions stem from him taking more than $24,000 from federally funded grants he controlled between 2004 and 2009 while serving as Lake County clerk, federal court records state. The law forbids elected officials from giving themselves such bonuses without the approval of the County Council.

Philpot attorney Leonard Goodman could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Goodman and attorney Theodore Poulos argued during the trial that Philpot was the victim of an honest mistake and bad legal advice. They said he deserved the benefit of reasonable doubt because Philpot's former lawyer, David Saks, erroneously advised Philpot he was within the law.

They said Philpot returned the money, with interest, two years ago when he learned of the error.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors during the trial that Philpot's "ignorance" defense was absurd.

"Take into consideration his education, training, his intelligence. How could someone who had been in office for a decade think he could pay himself whatever he wants, whenever he wants?

"The taxpayers trusted the defendant as a lawyer, a doctor and a two-term coroner. He stole money from them," Benson said.

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody has not yet ruled on Philpot's motions.

Times reporter Bill Dolan contributed to this report.

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