The ugly face of political corruption can be found in many forms in La Porte County. Regrettably, Councilman Mike Mollenhauer’s recent statement blindly defending criminally accused Councilman John Sullivan and former commissioner Dave Decker displays one such face of corruption.
Mollenhauer’s deceitful, dishonest and hypocritical statement seeks to defend his political friends with a personal attack upon the integrity of a prosecutor who dares to do his duty against the politically powerful. Mollenhauer’s conduct reflects an “above the law” and “protect your own at all costs” attitude that has plagued La Porte County politics for far too long.
The least of the councilman’s deceptions is the suggestion that this prosecutor refuses to allow a special prosecutor, knowing I have taken no such position. In this prosecutor’s only previous public statement, I quoted the law which affords Sullivan and any elected official the opportunity to request a special prosecutor after charges have been filed. As expected, Mr. Sullivan’s attorney has made that request and at the appropriate time and place, this prosecutor will agree to it, just as I agreed to a special prosecutor in the case against Decker.
Far more concerning is the hypocrisy by which former sheriff Mollenhauer asserts Sheriff Boyd did the right thing to recuse himself from the investigation of Sullivan (he did) but condemns the current prosecutor for not “following his lead.” The hypocrisy lies in the past actions of then-sheriff Mollenhauer.
It wasn’t that long ago that the then-sheriff’s office conducted the criminal investigation of his friend and former commissioner Milsap, while their friend and disgraced former prosecutor Szilagyi occupied the prosecutor’s office. One cannot help but wonder why Sheriff Mollenhauer didn’t recuse his department from the investigation and demand a special prosecutor, before or after, Szilagyi refused to file charges. Ultimately, one cannot help but wonder whether sheriff-now-councilman Mollenhauer lives by a double-standard: one for his friends while a “friendly” prosecutor (whose ethics drew the discipline of the Supreme Court) occupies the office; and another standard for friends while a prosecutor who believes no one is above the law occupies the office.
Not only has Mollenhauer apparently forgotten the way he conducted his own affairs, but seems to have forgotten that criminal cases are not tried in the court of public opinion. They’re tried in courts of law. As a former sheriff, Mollenhauer’s attempt to discredit the State Police investigation and pending charge against Sullivan as “nonsense” which “could have been charged as a misdemeanor or not at all” is appalling.
Equally appalling is the former sheriff’s dishonesty in his attempt to draw parallels to the now-closed case of former-commissioner Decker. Mollenhauer characterizes the Decker case as “so weak it was ultimately dismissed” and the prosecutor’s motivations as nothing short of political.
Despite Mollenhauer’s claims, when the Decker case was closed, it wasn’t for want of evidence, it was under a “Pretrial Diversion Agreement.” Such an agreement is common in cases like Decker’s and generally requires the defendant to pay fees, make restitution, commit no new crimes for a pre-determined period of time, and “earn” a dismissal by complying with the agreement. Such was the disposition of the Decker case, as reflected in the public record – the same record Mollenhauer shamelessly distorts or disregards in making his inaccurate and agenda-driven comments.
And despite Mollenhauer’s claims to the contrary, the Decker case was not charged as part of a political agenda. Perhaps Mollenhauer doesn’t remember when the sworn duty of this prosecutor demanded he file charges against sitting commissioner Decker, while Mr. Decker’s campaign sign sat in my front yard. And as unfortunate as the timing may have been given the election cycle, Decker, not John Espar, chose the time of the charges when he chose the time of his actions.
Mollenhauer would do well to elevate his public duty above his political agenda. For now it appears, he would have the prosecutor apply one standard to those with whom he shares political interests and another to everyone else. This prosecutor sees such “above the law” attitudes as a kind of corruption that no public official should embrace and one that La Porte County can do without.
John M. Espar is prosecuting attorney of the 32nd Judicial Circuit.