Monday, July 26, 2010

DeWeese Held Over For Trial

A hearing was held today concerning charges leveled against State Representative Bill DeWeese in the Bonusgate investigation by AG Corbett's office. DeWeese stepped down earlier this year as House Majority Whip as a result of the charges but refuses to resign his office. He won the Democratic renomination for his office by the voters in his district in the spring.

The Post Gazette reported that Kevin Sidella, one of his aides, testified earlier today about the magnitude of campaign work he performed for DeWeese at the expense of Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Legislative aide Kevin Sidella was disenchanted with his assigned tasks of arranging meals and car washes for his boss, state Rep. Bill DeWeese, and there wasn't enough legitimate work to go around.

That's why he took on campaign fundraising, Mr. Sidella testified this morning in a preliminary hearing for Mr. DeWeese, D-Waynesburg.

"There was only so much work to go around. There wasn't a lot of work left," said Mr. Sidella, who is testifying under a grant of immunity.

Prosecutors now say it was a crime for Mr. DeWeese to keep Mr. Sidella on state payroll while his work days were consumed with political work. Mr. Sidella said he maintained the campaign check book, provided talking points for Mr. DeWeese's fund-raising phone calls and dug up dirt on political opponents.

It is illegal to use state resources for political work.

As Tracey Mauriello reported this afternoon DeWeese's defense was "We all did it" mentality.

Asked whether he was concerned that political work was being done on state time, Mr. DeWeese told the grand jury this: "That was not unusual. That was part of the culture. Looking back it was wrong. We shouldn't have done it but it was part of the political culture on Capitol Hill."

Prosecutors said Ms. DeWeese's own words helped them make their case during a preliminary hearing today.

"The defendant has clearly admitted to the crimes with which he was charged," prosecutor Kenneth Brown said.

Mr. DeWeese's attorney, William C. Costopoulos, disagreed, saying the Democratic state representative from Waynesburg "has not admitted to any crime" and that the charges against him are politically motivated and petty.

Whether he is guilty will be up to a jury.

It's a wonder with that statement why DeWeese went to trial.

DeWeese encouraged his protege Todd Eachus to run for Tom Stish's seat in 1995. DeWeese and his cronies poured money into successfully getting Eachus elected and Stish ousted. DeWeese mounted Stish's parking space sign on the marble fireplace in his office, so in his words, "he would never, ever forget."

Funny how life has a way of biting one in the arse.

Here is a report from Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review outlining testimony concerning Todd Eachus's role in the Bonusgate matter.

In grand jury testimony, former aides identify him as aggressive and portray a politically ambitious lawmaker climbing the ladder in the House. He previously served as policy committee chairman and also chaired the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

Former staffer John Paul Jones said he was brought onto Eachus' staff "solely" to do political work. He said he had a "beard assignment" that he was supposed to be working on "alternative energy" issues.

"But you didn't study alternative energy?" a prosecutor asked him. "No," Jones told the grand jury.

Jones testified that Eachus wanted to spend "soft dollars" through state-paid public service announcements so the campaigns would spend less of their resources.

There were occasions, Jones testified, where he and another aide were called in to provide staff support so Eachus could make fundraising calls in his office.

From the Seattle Times: But Eachus told WNEP-TV in Scranton this week that he was shocked and saddened "to see colleagues of ours having problems. But I say this, that anyone who has created a problem should face justice."

Maybe the local Northeastern Pennsylvania media outlets would like to explain why this information hasn't made it to print here when it makes all the way to Seattle.

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