The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

February 6, 2012

State Rep. William DeWeese convicted on five counts in corruption case

HARRISBURG — A jury today convicted a senior Democrat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on all but one of six charges in the latest corruption trial stemming from a five-year investigation into the use of taxpayers' resources for political purposes.

Rep. Bill DeWeese was convicted of felony counts of conspiracy, conflict of interest and three counts of theft, while the Dauphin County jury acquitted him of one other theft count.

The verdict, reached early on the third day of deliberations, struck a grave blow to the 35-year career of the former floor leader who also once served as House speaker. A woman seated with DeWeese's family cried out when first guilty verdict was announced.

DeWeese's lawyer vowed to appeal. DeWeese said he intended to keep his House seat — despite a constitutional provision interpreted to bar any felon from serving in public office — and continue his re-election campaign in his southwestern Pennsylvania district.

"I certainly feel that I did nothing wrong," the 61-year-old DeWeese told reporters.

"I believe that, in the court of public opinion, I shall be favorably received to some substantial degree. That's up to the voters, but I certainly will continue to run," the Greene County lawmaker said.

Lead prosecutor Ken Brown said he was pleased by the verdict and that state sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence between nine and 16 months behind bars for each count. He said the conviction will cost DeWeese his House seat and state pension.

"He's a convicted felon and convicted felons, once they're sentenced, can't sit in the General Assembly," said Brown, a senior deputy attorney general. "If he wants to spit in the face of the jury's verdict, I guess that's his prerogative."

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