Tanoos to seek Supreme Court appeal

Danny Tanoos, right, is shown with attorney James Voyles in this fall 2018  file photo. The former Vigo County schools superintendent has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to accept transfer of a bribery case filed against him in Marion County Superior Court. That has been continued to March 2020 while Tanoos' appeal of the charges plays out.

The Indiana Attorney General has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to deny the petition of former Vigo County schools Superintendent Danny Tanoos asking for review of the bribery charges pending against him in Marion County.

In a petition filed Monday, Chief Counsel of Appeals Stephen R. Creason said the denial of the Indiana Appeals Court to hear Tanoos' appeal was proper because Tanoos is properly charged with bribery according to Indiana law.

The 18-page petition argues the Marion Superior Court 4 did not err when it denied Tanoos' motion to dismiss the three bribery charges filed in September 2018. The appeals court affirmed that lower court decision.

The petition says the Supreme Court should deny the transfer because the case “does not present any significant questions of law” to be decided.

Tanoos is alleged to have solicited gifts from contract vendor Energy Systems Group and employee Doug Tischbein for exclusive access to contracts for school construction projects. The company secured contracts worth tens of millions of dollars with more than $11 million profit for ESG.

Tanoos' legal team has argued the charges are a “generalized” bribery theory without enough detail to establish a quid pro quo for the gifts of meals and entertainment expenses Tanoos received on three occasions.

The next step in the process is for the appeal to be sent to the Supreme Court justices. According to the court administration website, after the justices have reviewed the materials for each case requesting a petition to transfer, they meet in conference to talk about them. At their meetings, the justices take turns giving their opinions on whether the court should accept or deny a case. At this meeting, the justices also decide whether or not to hold an oral argument.

When at least three justices vote to reject the case, the request for transfer is denied. When the transfer is denied, the court notifies the clerk of the courts of their decision, and the appellate process ends.

If, on the other hand, at least three justices vote to hear the case, the transfer is granted. The justices then decide who will write the opinion of the court. No one outside of the court knows who will write the opinion until it is officially published. Once a draft opinion is written, the justice shares it with the other justices. Each justice reads and votes on each part of the opinion and has the option of submitting concurring or dissenting opinions.

On Dec. 6, the appeals court issued its opinion that Marion Superior Court 4 Judge Lisa Borges did not error in refusing to dismiss the three bribery charges, which Tanoos claimed were unclear and did not point to a specific crime being committed.

Tanoos faces one count of bribery as a Class C felony, which carries a potential sentence of two to eight years in prison with an advisory sentence of four years. He also faces two counts of bribery as a Level 5 felony, which carry a potential penalty of one to six years in prison with an advisory sentence of three years.

Tanoos has maintained his innocence.

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