Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

November 26, 2013

Ex-prosecutor gets probation for accepting bribe

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former Marion County chief deputy prosecutor who pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe that allowed a woman who was convicted of murdering her husband to get out of prison early was sentenced Monday to six months of house arrest and three years of probation.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker gave David Wyser a lesser sentence than the 18 to 24 months in prison called for under guidelines at the request of federal prosecutors because of his cooperation into an investigation into his ex-boss, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Prosecutors asked for a reduction from that baseline sentencing "to the extent the court deems appropriate."

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett announced last month that Brizzi had been the target of a federal investigation, but said it didn't turn up proof that Brizzi took bribes during his two terms in office.

Wyser pleaded guilty in July to accepting a $2,500 bribe in 2009 from Paula Epperley Willoughby's father, Harrison Epperley, to reduce her sentence. She was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 1991 killing of her husband, James Darrell Willoughby, who was gunned down on his motorcycle outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Willoughby initially was sentenced to 110 years in prison. On appeal, Willoughby's sentence was reduced to 70 years: 40 for murder and 30 for conspiracy. But the sentence modification changed the murder and conspiracy sentences from consecutive to concurrent, making her eligible for earlier release.

The victim's sister, Jessie Willoughby, told WTHR-TV she believes Wyser should've received the maximum 10-year sentence.

Paula Epperley Willoughby wouldn't have gotten out of prison early without Wyser accepting the bribe, which Wyser initially described as a campaign contribution.

"Not a contribution, not a gift, it was a bribe," Jessie Willoughby said. "And without that there wouldn't have been her release."

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