John Perzel, the self-professed architect of a state House Republican scheme to pay for political campaign computer software with taxpayer dollars was sentenced today to up to five years in prison. The former state House Speaker was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution, as well as thousands in fines.
Perzel, from Philadelphia, pleaded guilty last fall to charges of theft, conspiracy, and conflict of interest.
Chief Deputy state Attorney General Frank Fina said his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors made his sentence lighter.
"It really makes a big difference to step forward, plead guilty," said Fina. "It leads to other people pleading guilty. It's a good message in the future to politicians, number one, that shouldn't be doing these things – should never be using the public's money and resources for personal reasons."
Perzel cooperated with prosecutors, testifying against another former Republican State Representative, Brett Feese, charged with using taxpayer money for political purposes. Fina said Perzel's remorse was clear in that testimony, as was his centrality to the plot to misuse tax dollars.
"He certainly got cross-examined for hours on his level of remorse and admitted over and over and over again that he did these things," said Fina. "He was the inventor and prime person responsible for them. And he did that under oath."
Perzel's lawyer, Brian McMonagle, said the sentence reflected Perzel's cooperation.
"I think the judge took everything into consideration, including his enormous good works. I really do."
Six other House Republican aides involved in the taxpayer-funded campaign strategy were also sentenced this week. Perzel's former chief of staff was the only one to receive jail time and was ordered to pay $1 million in compensation to the commonwealth; the others received sentences of probation, community service, and fines.