A judge set an August trial date in the criminal case against indicted former Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Matt Kelty, but appeal efforts by defense attorneys could delay the matter further.
Indicted last August by an Allen County grand jury called by special prosecutor Daniel Sigler, Kelty is accused in nine counts of mishandling campaign finance contributions and lying during his grand jury testimony. His Indianapolis-based defense attorneys filed a lengthy motion to dismiss the indictment in late October, just before the general election.
Shortly after Allen Superior Court Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger denied the motion to dismiss Friday, defense attorney Larry Mackey said he intended to seek an emergency hearing before the Indiana Court of Appeals.
That may delay the Aug. 18 trial date, if Scheibenberger grants Mackey’s request for an appeal.
Scheibenberger also granted Sigler’s request to amend the indictments to include the phrase “knowingly and intentionally.”
The Republican nominee, Kelty lost the election to Democrat Tom Henry. But the criminal case, and the public interest it generated, has followed Kelty into the new year.
Five of the felony indictments deal with how Kelty reported a $150,000 loan he received from Fred Rost, former campaign chairman and head of Allen County Right to Life, and a $10,000 loan he received from Steve and Glenna Jehl, his campaign manager.
Two additional felony counts allege perjury in his testimony regarding a Zogby opinion poll conducted before the Republican primary.
The remaining two counts are misdemeanors: recklessly commingling funds, stemming from how he allegedly handled his personal, as opposed to his campaign, money.
Scheibenberger’s ruling came after Friday’s two-hour pre-trial hearing in which Mackey and co-counsel Jason Barclay used a multimedia presentation to lay out their arguments for dismissal.
In part, Kelty’s attorneys argued, the facts of the case do not constitute a crime because the $150,000 in question was a loan, not a donation. And those who gave Kelty the money expect to be repaid, as evidenced by two promissory notes.
Kelty intends to pay the money back and has even put his house up for sale, Barclay said.
D.J. Sigler, son of the special prosecutor and serving as co-counsel, said it looked as if the defense lawyers thought that maybe, if they defined the money as a loan enough times, the prosecutors and the court would believe them.
The money was not a loan, D.J. Sigler said, but rather a funnel, a pot of cash that “ran straight downhill through three accounts and into the Kelty campaign.”
And neither Rost nor Jehl have done anything to collect on the debt since the promissory notes were signed, D.J. Sigler said. Kelty sat stonelike throughout the hearing, ramrod straight and barely glancing at his lawyers.
The courtroom was unusually full, largely with Kelty’s family and supporters as well as members of the public taking notes on the proceedings.
After the hearing, Kelty declined to comment, deferring to Mackey, who expressed disappointment with Scheibenberger’s ruling.
But Mackey thanked the judge for taking the time to hear their arguments and said he intends to seek permission for an appeal, which would happen in about 10 to 14 days. He said they will also look into whether Kelty can get a fair trial in Allen County.
Dan Sigler said Mackey and Barclay did a good job defending their client, but he was happy with Scheibenberger’s ruling.
Another pre-trial hearing is scheduled for July.