No verdict in Pennsylvania corruption trial

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 03, 2012 5:43 PM
No verdict in Pennsylvania corruption trial

By Mark Shade

HARRISBURG, Penn. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania jury ended a second day of deliberations on Friday without reaching a verdict in the corruption trial of one of the state's longest-serving lawmakers, accused of using state employees to campaign for him for free.

The panel of seven women and five men, which began deliberations on Thursday morning, was set to resume on Monday.

State Rep. 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.

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

DeWeese testified in his own defense that he did nothing wrong and had trusted the hundreds of people who worked in the Democratic Caucus because he was rarely around to supervise.

He also said he consistently told employees they must use personal leave or lunch hours if they were going to campaign for him.

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

He also claimed DeWeese had a "sense of entitlement" about forcing state workers to campaign for him.

Doing any campaigning while on the public clock is against the law in Pennsylvania.

If he is found not guilty, DeWeese has said he will seek re-election. A former Speaker of the House, DeWeese has represented southwestern Pennsylvania for 36 years.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Ellen Wulfhorst)