Updated: Tuesday, 07 Feb 2012, 5:38 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 04 Feb 2012, 2:28 AM EST
NOBLESVILEL, Ind. (WISH) - Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was found guilty early Saturday morning of felony voter fraud charges, and the governor appointed an interim director. Court wrangling over White's fate and replacement is likely to continue, however.
The jury began deliberating after lunch Friday and returned the verdict around 2:20 a.m. Saturday.
White, the state’s chief election officer, was found guilty of six out of seven felony counts. The jury found him not guilty on a charge of fraud against a financial institution.
The charges centered around allegations that White was registered at his ex-wife's home when he voted in the May primary even though he lived at a new townhouse on the other side of Fishers, making him ineligible to run for office. He admits the mistake but denies an effort to deceive calling the incident “an honest mistake.”
White will be sentenced at a later date, possibly early to mid-week next week.
A guilty verdict means that Charlie White can no longer serve as secretary of state, but there will be a fight over his replacement and who picks that replacement.
The normal chain of events would call for Gov. Mitch Daniels to fill the vacancy, and Daniels, a Republican, would almost certainly choose another Republican.
However, it's likely Democrats will turn to the courts in an effort to prevent a Daniels selection. That's because a Democratic Party challenge to White's election has already produced a ruling from Judge Louis Rosenberg that calls for the Republican White to be removed and replaced by the second place finisher in the 2010 election, Democrat Vop Osili, who now serves on the Indianapolis City County Council.
Rosenberg's ruling is on hold by order of the state Supreme Court. And it is the Supreme Court that will likely decide how White's replacement will be chosen.
In addition, White's attorneys said they would attempt to get the original felony criminal charges reduced to misdemeanors, in which case a guilty verdict would not mean automatic removal from office for White.
For the time being, however, White has been removed from office, at least temporarily. In response to the verdict, Daniels appointed Jerry Bonnet as interim secretary of state. Bonnet has worked in the secretary of state's office since 2005, Daniels said, and was most recently serving as chief deputy.
“I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder," Daniels said in a statement just minutes after news of the verdict. "If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.
Bonnet, a Yorktown native, would "provide the effective supervision and oversight" needed in "an exceptionally busy time in the secretary of state’s office as signatures for president, U.S. Senate and governor are being certified this month," Daniels said.
Bonnet has agreed to serve until Daniels either selects someone else to serve the remainder of the current term or until the White is reinstated, the governor said.
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