What the Veon verdict means

Former Pa. House Democratic Whip Mike Veon at Dauphin County District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., in Feb. Veon was sentenced today to 6 to 14 years in prison. (AP Photo/Jason Minick)

Earlier today, a judge in Harrisburg sentenced former state representative Mike Veon to six to 14 years in prison. Veon was convicted of masterminding a scheme to pay taxpayer funded bonuses to state employees who worked on political campaigns. The sentence -- which also included $137,000 in fines and penalties -- is the stiffest punishment yet for elected officials caught up in the ongoing corruption investigation by Attorney General Tom Corbett.

What does this all mean?

First of all, this is a pretty stiff sentence. Veon could spend more than a decade behind bars, while State Sen. Vince Fumo was sentenced to just 55 months in a federal prison for misusing nearly $2 million in state and non-profit funds. It's also worth noting that Fumo was found guilty on 137 counts of corruption. In contrast, Veon was only convicted on 14 of 59 counts. Despite this disparity, Veon is poised to spend a lot longer in prison.

Second, the harsh nature of the sentence could impact other defendants that have been charged with similar crimes. State Rep. Bill DeWeese and State Rep. John Perzel are both set to go to trial on similar charges in the coming months. Right now, both say they plan to plead innocent and go to trial. They might have second thoughts after seeing the long sentence given to Veon. Now, they may have to at least consider the idea of pleading guilty to avoid long prison sentences.

Finally, the sentence is probably good news for Attorney General Tom Corbett. He's running for governor and corruption busting is one of his major selling points. His prosecutors pushed for a stiff sentence and got it, so he can claim yet another victory. That could translate into votes, since most of Pennsylvania is fed up with public corruption.

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