August 24, 2017-After one of the most contentious trials in Lake County history, Sheriff John Buncich was convicted on all counts of a 6 count indictment. Buncich relinquished office immediately as a matter of law when the jury announced the verdict. The day to day duties of Sheriff will be taken on by Chief of Police Matt Eaton until such time as a caucus may be held to appoint a new Sheriff according to a statement from Commissioner Mike Repay.
Assistant United States Attorney Phillip Benson relied on two damning video tapes as part of his case in chief. In one undercover video, Buncich could be seen reaching into a truck owned by co-defendant Willie Szarmach. According to the indictment, Buncich retrieved cash from the truck. In another undercover video, Co-Defendant Tim Downes, who was working with the FBI, handed Buncich $7,500.00 in cash in his office. Buncich coul be seen taking the cash and putting it in a desk drawer. The Prosecution outlined a case of pay to play wherein towing operators would pay cash in order to get more towing work from the Sheriff.
The Buncich defense team argued that the cash was all legitimate campaign contributions. Despite much of it not being reported on his campaign finance reports as required by law, Buncich claimed sloppy record keeping was his only crime.
Buncich will be sentenced at a later date and remains free on bond until that time.
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Copyright 2017 The Northwest Indiana Gazette