Judge: No new trial for Philpot

2013-02-20T08:09:00Z 2013-02-21T09:12:03Z Judge: No new trial for PhilpotLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request for a new trial for former Lake County official Thomas Philpot while agreeing to dismiss two of the five counts against him.

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody granted his motion for acquittal on one count of mail fraud and one count of theft. Philpot is scheduled to appear before Moody at 9:30 a.m. Thursday for sentencing.

Philpot, Lake County's former coroner and clerk, entered a request in September that his conviction on three counts of mail fraud and two counts of theft be overturned or for him to receive a new trial. He argued he did not receive a fair trial.

The longtime Lake County elected official was convicted of giving himself more than $24,000 from federal grants between 2004 and 2009 as bonuses while he was serving as Lake County clerk.

The grant funds were intended to improve the collection of court-ordered child support payments.

Philpot's attorneys argued at trial he made an honest mistake based on bad legal advice and he returned the funds with interest.

Moody's ruling Tuesday said the convictions on the counts of mail fraud and theft stemming from January 2007 and December 2005 to December 2006 are based on "speculation, not a reasonable inference which can be drawn beyond a reasonable doubt."

Moody denied Philpot's request for a new trial but conditionally denied a new trial on the two counts he dismissed.

Prior to Moody's ruling, Philpot was facing less than three years in prison according to sentencing recommendations. It is unclear how the acquittal of the two counts may affect Philpot's sentence.

Moody also denied Philpot's request on Wednesday to push back sentencing. Philpot had argued his lawyers needed more time to review Moody's order that dismissed two counts but denied a new trial and that it "substantially impacts the landscape of the factual and legal issues raised for sentencing," court records state.

However, Moody disagreed and said in his order that any arguments or objections Philpot has made are "equally relevant now" and any changed circumstances can be considered at sentencing.

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