SOUTH BEND – The judge in the ballot petition case involving former county Democratic Party boss Butch Morgan approved a motion on Monday to compel Morgan and others to provide handwriting samples.
The motion, filed by special prosecutor Stanley Levco, requires that Morgan and co-defendants Pam Brunette, Bev Shelton, and Dustin Blythe provide the samples "in a form and manner as directed by the state ... upon (its) reasonable demand."
It also requires that each of the four defendants provide one to three separate, one-page handwriting samples not prepared for litigation purposes. Examples include a diary page, a personal journal or notebook page, correspondence, and/or a "to-do" or shopping list.
According to the motion, the samples, which "may provide information critical to the (state's) preparation and presentation of the case at trial," have been requested by forensic document examiners at the Indiana State Police Laboratory in Indianapolis.
Citing earlier cases, the motion notes that compelling a defendant to provide a handwriting sample does not qualify as self-incrimination, as spelled out in the 5th Amendment.
None of the four defense attorneys in the case objected to the motion.
Also on Monday, Superior Court Judge John Marnocha agreed to refund half of each defendant's bond, returning $3,000 to Shelton's attorney, $5,000 to Morgan's attorney, $3,000 to Blythe, and $4,000 to Brunette.
Morgan, Shelton, Brunette, and Blythe, all Democrats, face multiple felony counts for allegedly conspiring to forge signatures on petitions to place Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the 2008 Indiana primary ballot.
The Tribune and Howey Politics Indiana first reported on the case in a series of investigative pieces last fall, prompting an investigation by the county prosecutor's office. Charges were filed in April.
The court has since appointed Levco, a former prosecutor in Vanderburgh County, to prosecute the case. He, in turn, has appointed LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Fronk to assist in the matter.
The defendants have until Aug. 27 to file a plea in the case, otherwise it goes to trial.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: