HARRISBURG - Current and former employees of Pennsylvania's gambling regulatory board were among witnesses called to testify yesterday at a closed hearing to determine whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate violations of grand jury secrecy.
Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover is presiding over the hearing to examine allegations of leaks in the investigation that led to perjury charges against casino owner Louis DeNaples earlier this year.
Few details of the proceedings were available beyond glimpses of witnesses entering and leaving Hoover's chambers. The judge maintained an order he issued Friday to close the hearing, despite a motion filed by members of DeNaples' legal team asking him to open it.
Among the more prominent witnesses called in the morning were David Kwait, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's director of investigations and enforcement, and Michael Schwoyer, the board's former chief enforcement officer.
Several sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officials also were subpoenaed for the roughly six-hour hearing, which was expected to resume today.
It was unclear exactly how many witnesses testified yesterday. Lawyers for the prosecution and DeNaples declined to comment on the proceedings after the hearing.
Kwait and Schwoyer, who now works for House Speaker Dennis O'Brien, each spent just a few minutes testifying before Hoover.
Neither they nor their attorney, Robert A. Graci, would comment afterward.
The state Supreme Court has ordered Hoover to hold the hearing to determine whether a special prosecutor should be appointed.
Fifteen journalists from six news organizations had been summoned to testify, but were later told they did not have to appear yesterday.
Their lawyers appeared before Hoover to argue against requiring their testimony, but he did not immediately rule, said Gayle Sproul, an attorney for the Associated Press and the Morning Call of Allentown.
"It's an open issue," Sproul said outside Hoover's chambers.
Besides the AP and the Morning Call, DeNaples' legal team served subpoenas earlier this month on reporters from the Inquirer and the Daily News; the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre; and Roxbury News, a Harrisburg-based broadcasting company.
Hoover has quashed portions of the subpoenas that directed the journalists to provide documents related to the probe, such as notes, calendars, e-mail messages and phone records.
DeNaples was charged earlier this year with four counts of perjury.
He is accused of lying to investigators for the state Gaming Control Board about his relationships with four men to win a $50 million slot-machine gambling license.
Two are reputed mobsters and the other two were at the center of a political corruption scandal in Philadelphia.
One of DeNaples' longtime friends, the Rev. Joseph F. Sica, also faces a perjury charge for allegedly lying in his grand jury testimony about his relationship with a mobster.
Sica appeared at the courthouse yesterday, but it was unclear whether he testified before Hoover. *