Thursday, February 11, 2016

DeWeese Wins, Loses

Former House Speaker Bill DeWeese won in Greene County but lost in Dauphin County and faces a stint in prison.

DeWeese Wins, Loses


Former Democratic House Speaker Bill DeWeese, even as he was being sentenced to prison in Dauphin County on Election Day, rang up more votes for reelection in his home Greene County than did the two Republican candidates vying for his legislative seat.

DeWeese, running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the 50th District, got 1,878 votes. The two Republican candidates got a combined total of 1,821.

DeWeese has maintained that had he been tried in Greene County, he would have been acquitted. The Election Day numbers suggest he might be right.

Some small solace, I imagine, for the 35-year incumbent, sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2- to 5-years in prison following conviction for conflict of interest, theft and conspiracy connected to his use of state employees for campaign work.

The sentence came after pleas for leniency and no jail from friends, consituents and allies, including GOP state Sen. Jeff Piccola, R-Dauphin County, and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, who were among two dozen letter-writers to Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover.

And DeWeese's lawyer, William Costopoulos, told Hoover that DeWeese, who resigned from the House at noon Tuesday, will lose an estimated $2.8 million in legislative pension benefits, his House salary and his health-care coverage.

DeWeese briefly addressed Hoover saying,“I remain unyieldingly respectful of this court, the jury and its verdict.” He apologized to his family and friends and proclaimed his "humility" without proclaiming any guilt.

But Senior Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Brown argued that DeWeese violated the public trust "systematically over a period of years" as "a common thief who had uncommon access to public money."

Brown said DeWeese's criminal activity "further eroded public confidence" in government and the Legislature, adding that, "It's beyond ridiculous to portrary a convicted felon as a victim."

When it was over, Costopoulos told journalists outside the court room that there will be an appeal. DeWeese, on advice of counsel, remained silent.

One onlooker, quipped that it was another loss for the always-loquacious DeWeese: "They took away his words."

DeWeese was ordered to report to prison May 14.





Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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