Jury back to work in Pennsylvania corruption trial

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 03, 2012 9:23 AM
Jury back to work in Pennsylvania corruption trial

By Mark Shade

HARRISBURG, Penn. (Reuters) - The jury was set to resume deliberations on Friday in the corruption trial of one of Pennsylvania's longest-serving lawmakers, accused of using state employees to campaign for him for free.

State Representative Bill DeWeese, an 18-term Democrat, faces four counts of theft and one count each of conspiracy and conflict of interest and could face 38 years in prison if convicted.

DeWeese's trial, which started January 23 in Dauphin County Court, stems from a larger scandal in 2006 called "Bonusgate" that has already led to 20 convictions or guilty pleas of Republican and Democratic lawmakers and staff who paid and received taxpayer-funded bonuses for their campaign work.

On Thursday, DeWeese's jury considered the facts of his case for about six hours, stopping once to ask Judge Todd Hoover to clarify the meanings of conspirator and accomplice and to see the lawmaker's grand jury testimony and the leave slips his employees used that allowed them to campaign for him. Hoover denied access to the grand jury testimony but allowed the leave slips.

"We are in the first week of the sixth year of this travail and I am absolutely looking forward to getting back to being a member of the state legislature, I hope," DeWeese said as he looked to his attorney, Bill Costopoulos.

"I respect the tribunals and I'm very hopeful that my presumption of innocence will be maintained," DeWeese told reporters after the jury was dismissed for the night.

DeWeese testified he did nothing wrong or had only repeated what had been done "since William Penn," referring to Pennsylvania's founding father.

Prosecutor Kenneth Brown has accused him of being the leader of a "criminal pyramid," saying DeWeese conspired with top aides to make state employees campaign for him.

If found not guilty, DeWeese has said he will seek re-election.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)