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Teising plans to appeal theft conviction
Sentencing set March 7 for former Wabash Township trustee
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Look for Jennifer Teising, tossed out as Wabash Township trustee in early January, to appeal her conviction on 21 felony counts of theft.
Teising’s Indianapolis-based attorney, Karen Celestino-Horseman, told a judge Friday morning to expect a request for a stay of the sentence when it’s handed down, pending an appeal that will be on the way.
The move wasn’t a surprise after a three-day bench trial in December that hinged on allegations that Teising was collecting a paycheck even though she wasn’t living in the township for parts of 2020 and 2021. Moments after Tippecanoe Superior Court 5 Judge Kristen McVey issued a guilty verdict Jan. 5, Celestino-Horseman said: “This case isn’t over, yet.”
On Friday, McVey set sentencing for March 7.
Under state code, with multiple counts of Level 6 felony convictions, Teising could face up to four years in prison.
Natasha Corbett, a deputy prosecutor who presented the case, told McVey that prosecutors planned to ask for restitution beyond the roughly $21,000 covered in the nine months after she sold her West Lafayette house to – in the words of the judge’s ruling – “live a nomadic RV lifestyle.” Corbett said prosecutors would seek restitution covering paychecks for the remaining months of 2021, after the indictments.
Celestino-Horseman said she didn’t believe the state could ask to repay sums that weren’t part of the charges heard in trial.
Teising did not attend Friday’s status conference in McVey’s court. Celestino-Horseman, who appeared by phone in a courtroom filled with defendants in other cases, said Teising was in Vincennes doing work at the home of her mother, who recently died.
Her attorney also tried to settle claims, lodged during a township board meeting earlier this week, that Teising had been holding onto electronics, phones, keys and other township property. Celestino-Horseman said Teising had been trying to work with the prosecutor’s office to line that up. Once steered to Angel Valentin, recently sworn in as the new Wabash Township trustee, most of the gear was back, Valentin said Friday afternoon.
“We offered to have an (Indiana State Police) detective pick the items up, but she felt uncomfortable with that,” Valentin said. “So, we tried to find an alternative.”
Valentin said the items were set on the porch of the Knox Drive house she’d used for vehicle registration and voter registration, and a volunteer firefighter picked it up. He said there were still some missing items that Teising thought were in the township offices and that both sides agreed to search for, again. And he said Teising agreed to mail keys to the township offices.
During the three-day trial, prosecutors laid out a timeline stitched together through home sales records; the purchase of a pickup truck and a fifth-wheel camper; stories from friends and township officials about how she said she planned to leave for Florida; and phone records that tracked how she spent all but 27 nights over nine months in other places besides the place she set up as a legal residence in West Lafayette.
Corbett had argued that Teising used cover of the COVID-19 pandemic to work remotely, as needed, signing an extended lease on a spot in a Florida campground and living in her camper at friends’ homes in Anderson or in the opposite side of Tippecanoe County. The paper trail built around the house of a former boyfriend on Knox Drive was Teising’s effort to conceal that she’d abandoned her post and legal residency in Wabash Township, the prosecution argued during the trial.
Celestino-Horseman contended that Teising was doing what snowbirds did by maintaining a residence that she always returned to in Wabash Township. She argued that the state’s case would be a slippery slope for other elected officials who spend extended time out of their districts.
McVey ruled that Teising’s actions and in her travels, “she ceased to make her ‘true, permanent and fixed’ home in Wabash Township … and forfeited the office of township trustee.”
Teising had said, even as fighting happened over management of the township and her decision to lay off the township’s paid firefighting staff, that she planned to run for re-election. With a felony conviction, that’s out of the question.
So far, Valentin, a Democrat, and Eric Hoppenjans, a Republican, have filed to run for Wabash Township trustee in 2022. The filing deadline to be on the primary ballot is Feb. 4.
FOR MORE: Here’s a full account, including the judge’s ruling and links to coverage each day of the trial:
ONE MORE CANDIDATE IN HOUSE DISTRICT 41
The Republican side of Indiana House District 41 is crowded with three candidates – Tippecanoe County’s Richard Bagsby and Shane Weist, along with Mark Genda of Frankfort – for the May 3 primary. On Friday, a Democrat jumped in, according to state election lists.
Greg Woods, a procurement specialist from Lebanon, is taking his second crack at a campaign in House District 41 – one of five House districts that include portions of Tippecanoe County.
Woods took just under 25% of the vote against state Rep. Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican who was first elected in 1994 and has been a top budget-maker in the Indiana House.
Brown plans to retire after this two-year term. Lawmakers redrew District 41 with that in mind, leaving him home out, but including the southeastern portion of Tippecanoe County, along with parts of Clinton, Montgomery and Boone counties, including Frankfort and Lebanon.
Woods said Friday he thought the newly drawn district could be flipped by a Democrat. Among his priorities, he said he wanted to work to bring affordable housing “so employees can live and work near their jobs;” give teachers pay increases so their salaries are in line with national averages; and the environment.
FOR MORE: Look for scramble next week ahead of the noon Friday, Feb. 4, filing deadline. For now, here’s a look at the rest of the filings in races affecting Tippecanoe County, as reported Thursday afternoon by the county elections office.
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