The jury in the public corruption trial of former Pennsylvania State House Speaker and sitting state representative Bill DeWeese heard from the Green County Democrat on the last day of testimony and will now begin deliberations. When DeWeese took the stand in his own defense he became the first sitting lawmaker to do so in response to theft and conspiracy charges brought by the attorney general's office in an investigation that goes back more than five years.
"We made the assessment on two grounds: that the jury really did want to hear from him, and we gave them that opportunity and, make no mistake about it, Bill DeWeese had to be heard," said DeWeese attorney William Costopoulos.
DeWeese told the court he never ordered or bullied state workers into doing campaign work. Costopoulos said his client's testimony illustrated how his management of legislative staff may have been negligent, but it also showed he didn't direct them to campaign on legislative time.
"[H]e truly did not do anything wrong intentionally and knowingly and if the staff out there had cut corners with their time slips, he was the last one in the world to have been aware of it," Costopoulos said.
The prosecution argued time slips are irrelevant and said DeWeese threatened to fire staffers who didn't help with the campaign. Earlier in the trial a former DeWeese staffer testified the lawmaker green-lighted campaigning on state time because "everybody does it," — prompting the lead prosecutor to tell the jury that just because it's part of the culture doesn't mean it's not a crime.
The prosecution argues DeWeese sat "at the top of a criminal pyramid" of state staff who routinely did campaign work and personal errands for him either on legislative time or on their own time.