Gov. Corbett's focus on state rep., not Sandusky, bothers Dem

| Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

HARRISBURG — On trial accused of fueling his campaigns with taxpayers' dollars, Rep. Bill DeWeese lashed out at Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday, saying he assigned 14 people to investigate DeWeese while attorney general and devoted only one investigator to claims that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused kids.

"One: That is not true," Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley said. "Two: Is (DeWeese) complaining or bragging?"

It's unusual in Pennsylvania for a defendant to make his case to the "jury of public opinion," said Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications and a Republican political consultant.

As jury selection began, Sharon Rodavich, DeWeese's longtime legislative aide and co-defendant, pleaded guilty to two felonies. Rodavich, 55, of Waynesburg, who also worked on DeWeese's campaigns, told the court that she will cooperate with prosecutors and testify against him.

Rodavich pleaded guilty to conflict of interest and conspiring to use public resources for campaigns. Each count is punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, though she likely would face far less because of her plea bargain. The state will drop four theft charges.

DeWeese, 61, a Waynesburg Democrat and former House speaker, said that Corbett, from March 2009 through October 2010, "had 14 prosecutors and agents tearing my life and Sharon Rodavich's life apart. He had one investigator on Jerry Sandusky."

Prosecutors accuse DeWeese of using his district and Harrisburg offices to run his campaigns and conducting fundraising operations at the Capitol. DeWeese, who joined the House in 1976, is charged with four counts of theft and one each of conflict of interest and conspiracy.

DeWeese, a former Marine, said the trial's start "is like the first day of boot camp: There's a certain amount of apprehension, but you are confident of the results."

Opening arguments and testimony will begin on Monday in Dauphin County.

On his way into the courtroom, DeWeese told reporters that he faces a "political trial" brought by Corbett while he was attorney general.

"Corbett has had it out for me. He's had a focus on me for a long time," DeWeese said.

Harley declined further comment. Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said prosecutors based their case on facts, evidence and the law.

DeWeese accused Corbett of using the law enforcement office to investigate him for "petty" matters while failing to assign enough people to investigate claims that Sandusky, the Nittany Lions' former defensive coordinator, molested young boys. DeWeese has made the same pitch from the House floor and in news interviews.

The Penn State scandal has nothing to do with DeWeese's case, but he evidently believes that linking the two could help him in the courtroom, said Gerow, a media strategist.

Corbett's investigation of Sandusky led to criminal charges in 2011 under his successor, Attorney General Linda Kelly. Prosecutors accuse two Penn State administrators of failing to report a 2002 incident and of lying about it. Kelly yesterday said she had no comment.

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