Only later did Hogsett admit how tough that threat is to carry out.
“The plain fact is,” he said, “cases of public integrity and corruption are often very difficult to make and to prove.”
Last fall, for example, Hogsett reluctantly shut down a high-profile probe of former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi. A three-year investigation failed to yield sufficient evidence that the top cop in the state’s capital had accepted bribes while in office.
The corruption task force had nailed two of Brizzi’s associates, including a former deputy prosecutor. But Hogsett had to tell investigators their mostly circumstantial case against Brizzi wouldn’t hold up in front a jury.
A few weeks later, that convicted deputy prosecutor, whom Hogsett wanted to be sent to prison, was sentenced to probation.
The results were discouraging, but Hogsett was undeterred.
“Those kinds of prosecutions, in the final analysis, are worth doing, even if the result isn’t what you hoped it would be,” he said during a recent interview. “It sends a very important message to everybody up and down the government chain that somebody is out there watching what they’re doing.”
Public officials caught under Hogsett’s tenure have included city councilmen with dirty money, township officials who embezzled public funds, IRS employees convicted of unemployment fraud, and a wealthy financier who spent stolen money on campaign contributions to prominent state politicians. The caseload has also included a police chief who used town money to buy himself a cache of guns and a deputy sheriff accused of brutalizing suspects in his custody.
Robert Jones, the FBI’s special-agent-in-charge in Indiana, said the range of cases is telling: “There is no acceptable level of public corruption.”
Hogsett hasn’t been without critics. His early decision to crack down on corruption raised questions about his political ambitions.