Government
7:46 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

DeWeese Won't Step Down Despite Guilty Verdict

Former Pennsylvania House Speaker Bill DeWeese has been found guilty on five corruption charges stemming from claims he required staff members, paid with state tax dollars, to work on his election campaigns as part of their jobs.

DeWeese (D-Greene County) is the first sitting legislator to be convicted since 2004, and the second House Speaker to plead or be found guilty of a crime within six months. Former Speaker and former Republican Representative John Perzel of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to eight felony counts on August 31, 2011 in the public corruption investigation by the State Attorney General's office. Perzel was defeated for reelection in November 2010 by Democrat Kevin Boyle.

In the wake of today's verdict, DeWeese, who is in his 35th year in the House, said he will not resign, and, in fact, is running for reelection in the April Primary.

"My petitions are out in my precincts and I believe that in the court of public opinion, I shall be favorably received to some substantial degree. That's up to the voters," DeWeese said. "But I will certainly continue to run for re-nomination and reelection."

He said he plans on attending tomorrow's budget address.

"I'm still a member of the General Assembly," DeWeese said. "In fact, I've asked [Democratic leader] Mr. Dermody to appoint me to the committee to escort the governor."

DeWeese doesn't have to surrender his seat until his conviction becomes official when he's sentenced in April.

Prosecutor Ken Brown from the state Attorney General's office said that's his choice.

"He's a convicted felon and convicted felons, once they're sentenced, can't sit in the General Assembly," Brown said. "If he wants to spit in the face of the jury's verdict, I guess that's his prerogative."

House Republicans say they won't push to expel DeWeese before he is sentenced, but they'll advance an expulsion resolution if he doesn't resign after that. Such a resolution requires a two-thirds majority vote.