Powerful Pennsylvania lawmaker found guilty of corruption

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2012 12:18 PM

By Mark Shade

HARRISBURG, Pa (Reuters) - State Representative H. William DeWeese, one of Pennsylvania's longest-serving and most influential lawmakers, was found guilty on Monday of theft and criminal conspiracy stemming from his use of state employees to campaign for him for free.

DeWeese, 61, faces the possibility of 38 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 24.

His case 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.

The jury in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania found DeWeese guilty of criminal conspiracy, conflict of interest and three counts of theft. It cleared him of one theft count after deliberating since Thursday.

The 18-term Democrat vowed following the guilty verdicts to appeal and said he intends to run for reelection.

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

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.

Prosecutors contended DeWeese, who has been House majority whip and speaker during his long career, had a sense of entitlement about forcing state employees to campaign for him.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)