INDIANAPOLIS — A former Indiana State Senator who recently completed his federal prison sentence related to taking part in a scheme that allowed him to gain more than $40,000 in illegal contributions during his congressional campaign is asking the court to “vacate, set aside or correct” his sentence, as he continues to maintain his innocence.
According to previous reports, Brent Waltz pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of making and receiving conduit contributions and one count of making false statements to the FBI. Waltz served 176 days in prison, was ordered to pay a $40,500 fine – the amount of reported conduit campaign contributions – and serve two years of probation. Waltz is currently in the third month of his probation sentence.
According to court documents, filed in the Indianapolis division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Waltz claims his attorney provided ineffective counsel during the course of his legal representation in accepting a plea agreement.
During a meeting prior to the plea agreement was signed, Waltz claimed his attorney was not aware of the implications of prison time surrounding the plea agreement. Waltz said he asked numerous questions surrounding the $40,500 amount listed in the plea as the monetary amount proposed by the office.
“(The attorney) did not perform any additional legal research that afternoon related to these questions,” the court documents read. “He did not consult legal counsel more knowledgeable on this topic than he, nor did he ask the Assistant U.S. Attorney he subsequently spoke with that afternoon several times as to why the $40,500 figure was chosen. (The attorney) continued to advise Waltz that there was no significance to that monetary amount.”
According to United States Sentencing Guidelines outlined in the court documents, officials recommend a “presumption of non-imprisonment for first time offenders of federal campaign contribution laws beneath a $40,000 threshold.”
“Amounts above $40,000 have a presumption of imprisonment,” the documents read. “No one present during the plea agreement discussions… were aware that by signing the plea agreement, Waltz was presumed to be facing a sentence of imprisonment, as opposed to the government simply making such a recommendation at sentencing. There is a stark difference between being told if you accept this plea you will almost assuredly go to federal prison versus if you accept this plea you will probably not.”
Ultimately, Waltz claimed he was not fully informed about the facts and the law associated with the plea agreement. In the documents, Waltz also said the plea agreement was recommended despite the attorney not “conducting an investigation and study on the matter” and ultimately gave “an incorrect analysis of the relevant law, despite repeated questioning of the matter” by Waltz.
“The ultimate factor Waltz considered in accepting the plea agreement was that he believed doing so would likely avoid imprisonment,” the documents read. “…The most compelling reason for him accepting a plea agreement was to avoid the disruption in his life associated with imprisonment. He believed that the presumed sentence would be one of a non-custodial nature because his legal counsel told him so. Waltz would never have accepted a plea agreement otherwise, preferring to go to trial instead if he knew that the sentencing would be a presumptive of imprisonment.”
According to court records, the only other documents which have been filed since this motion to vacate is a notice of change of attorney information.