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Indiana politician criminal trial opens

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Embattled Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White knowingly lived outside his town council district, lied on official forms and committed vote fraud because of financial difficulties, prosecutors said Tuesday at the opening of his criminal trial.

White, a Republican who a judge separately has ruled was not eligible to run for secretary of state in 2010 because he was not properly registered at his own address, faces seven felony charges including perjury, theft and voter fraud.

On the first day of the criminal trial, special prosecutor Dan Sigler told Hamilton County jurors that White lied on documents that were public record to retain a $1,000 a month stipend for his town council seat.

"Somebody tried to get away with something," tried to hide facts and got caught, Sigler said.

Sigler said cellular telephone records would show where White was living. The state expects to complete its presentation of evidence on Thursday.

White's attorney, former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi, asked rhetorically whether White's position as secretary of state made him a target of over-the-top prosecution.

Brizzi said White worked hard while serving on Fisher's Town Council and none of his votes had been voided. He also said prosecutors would not be able to present records that would prove where White was when he used his BlackBerry.

Brizzi said he did not know yet whether White would take the stand in his own defense.

White is a former chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County. He has remained secretary of state despite the criminal indictment and civil lawsuits that have challenged the validity of his election to state office.

A Marion County judge ruled in December that White was not eligible to run for secretary of state and the Democratic candidate he defeated by more than 340,000 votes in the 2010 election, Vop Osili, should be declared the winner.

White has been allowed to stay in office while he appeals that ruling.

(Reporting by Susan Guyett; Editing by David Bailey and Paul Thomasch)