Saturday, May 22, 2010

Brett Cott Sentenced In Bonusgate Conviction

Democratic aide Brett Cott has been sentenced to 21-64 months in prison for his role in the Bonusgate scandal that rocked Harrisurg, Pennsylvania's capitol according to Brad Bumsted.

Citing a "clear violation of the public trust," a Dauphin County judge today sentenced a former aide of ex-Democratic Whip Mike Veon to 21 months to five years in a state prison for stealing taxpayer resources for political campaigns.

Cott was handcuffed and led away by sheriff's deputies after Common Pleas Judge Richard Lewis denied bail. He was to be taken to Dauphin County Prison to be transported to Camp Hill State Correctional Institution for processing into the state prison system.

Defense attorney Bryan Walk said he will appeal the conviction and the sentence. He called the sentence "excessive" and said there are drug dealers prosecuted by the attorney general's office who get less time.

The sentence was harsher than even prosecutors recommended. Tom Barnes of the Post-Gazette wrote:

The judge said Mr. Cott spent most of his time that was paid for on taxpayer dollars "orchestrating and mastermining political activity." The judge said "public money was used like monopoly money to run campaigns. Some potential candidates were scared off by this taxpayer funded juggernaut. The public was also victimized."

He said probation was not an option because that "would demean the seriousness of the crimes."

In a related story AG Tom Corbett withdrew his subpoenas of Twitter accounts seeking to find the identities of two users who have been critical of Mr. Corbett on the social networking site.

Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said today the attorney general's office had no intention of violating anyone's First Amendment rights to free speech by issuing the subpoenas -- he said they were issued for "legal reasons, allowed by law. They had nothing to do with bloggers or tweets of people."

He said the state was trying to show that harsh, negative criticism of Mr. Corbett, especially in the blog CasablancaPA, was "part of Brett Cott's demeanor,"' and showed that he had no "remorse or contrition" about what he'd done. He said Mr. Cott's demeanor was a proper subject to be considered at sentencing.

In the attorney general's memo given to the judge before the sentencing, 17 "aggravating factors" were listed, showing that in the state's opinion Mr. Cott deserved a strong punishment.

One paragraph reads: "Defendant has extensively and anonymously utilized a blog entitled 'CasablancaPA, Exposing the hypocrisy of Tom Corbett,' to deflect blame and deny responsibility for his criminal conduct, and to attack and malign the investigative and prosecutorial process which resulted in his conviction."

Most in the blogging world including SOP scoffed at Corbett's strategy on this one. Cott was convicted and awaitiing sentencing. "Squishing the bug on the ground a little more" wasn't going to serve a greater purpose for society. With Pennsylvania's budget woes due to a loss of projected income meant that AG Corbett should have been a better steward of the resources provided to his office. He may make the claim that these people weren't paid anymore money to file the subpoenas. But most know that there are only so many hours in a work week. If one spends time on this issue another more pressing matter is being forgotten or put aside. Next time Tom use your head.

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