HARRISBURG - Former State Rep. Mike Veon, once among the most powerful politicians in Pennsylvania, was sentenced Friday to six to 14 years in prison for his part in orchestrating a scheme that used more than $1 million in taxpayer money to finance the campaigns of House Democrats.
Veon, 53, once the second-ranking House Democrat, is the most senior former legislator yet to be convicted in the sweeping Bonusgate probe launched by Attorney General Tom Corbett in 2008.
Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis said Veon, who represented Beaver County in Western Pennsylvania for 22 years, abused his office and engaged in "blatant criminal activity."
"This was a clear and dramatic violation of the public trust and a flagrant, glaring abuse of power," said Lewis, noting that the bonuses were not a one-time occurrence but were "systematic" and increased tenfold in three years, to $1.4 million in 2006.
Veon, 53 - dressed in his signature pinstripe suit, French cuffs, and cowboy boots - stood stoically as Lewis read the sentence on 14 counts of theft, conflict of interest, and conspiracy.
Veon's wife, Stefanie, wept at the sentence. His 27-year-old son, Ryan, called out, "I love you, Dad," after Veon was denied bail and was led away in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies. He was taken to the state prison at Camp Hill.
Earlier in court, Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, who had managed Veon's district office in Beaver Falls, was sentenced to three to six months in prison.
Prosecutors had sought a 12-to-17-year sentence for Veon but said they were satisfied with the judge's decision.
Veon's attorney, Dan Raynak, said that he was disappointed, but that he "understands and respects the sentence."
Raynak, who filed an emergency motion in Superior Court to allow Veon to be released on bail, said he would appeal. Raynak and Veon's supporters say Corbett, who won the Republican nomination for governor in May, has used Bonusgate as "stepping-stone" to run for higher office and made Veon a scapegoat.
Before the sentencing, Veon's friends and family members emerged from a van carrying signs that said "Tom Corbett for Governor" with a slash through it.
As Veon was en route to processing at the state prison at Camp Hill, news reached the courthouse that the FBI was raiding the home and district office of Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow (D., Lackawanna).
In the courtroom, filled with dozens of supporters - including former aides and legislators - Veon apologized for his "mistakes."
"The jury has spoken. I recognize that. I understand that," Veon said in his most extensive public comments since his arrest in 2008. "I have made mistakes in my life and my career. I'm sorry for those mistakes. . . . I apologize for those mistakes."
Raynak argued for leniency, saying Veon's subordinates admitted on the witness stand that they hatched the bonus plan.
Prosecutors said regardless of whose idea it was, Veon "blessed" the bonus scheme.
"When does the orchestra start, when the cellists are warming up or when the maestro starts moving his hands?" said Marc Costanzo, senior deputy attorney general. "The orchestra didn't starting playing without Veon."
In March, a jury convicted Veon on the theft and conspiracy charges, among them that he directed aides to drive his motorcycles from Utah to the Sturgis bike rally in South Dakota while on the state payroll.
He was acquitted of 45 related counts. Two of his aides also were found guilty at that time: Brett Cott, who was sentenced last month to 21 to 60 months in prison, and Perretta-Rosepink.
Veon had been charged with using $1.9 million in tax dollars to pay bonuses to state workers for campaign work and other illegal expenses.
Veon, who lost a reelection bid in 2006, faces other legal problems.
He is charged in a separate attorney general's investigation into the Beaver Initiative for Growth, a nonprofit he helped create. Prosecutors allege he funneled state grants to the nonprofit and used much of the money for his political and personal gain.
In the Bonusgate case, Veon was among 12 people associated with House Democrats swept up in the initial round of charges in July 2008. Seven of them, all top aides, pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors.
Former State Rep. Sean Ramaley (D., Beaver) was acquitted in December of charges that he held a no-work legislative job in 2004, when he successfully ran for the House. Another aide, Steve Keefer, was acquitted in March.
Since that first set of charges, 13 other people - 10 Republicans and three Democrats - have been charged in Corbett's corruption probe. They included two former House speakers, John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) and Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), both of whom await trial.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis contributed to this article.