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Two DAs say they're investigating Rep. Jesse White for using online aliases

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By Timothy Puko and Brad Bumsted
Thursday, June 6, 2013, 3:42 p.m.
 

District attorneys in two counties are investigating state Rep. Jesse White's use of Internet aliases to slam opponents.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said Thursday he is helping with Washington County's investigation.

Marsico said his involvement, in part, is to determine whether White, a Cecil Democrat, committed any crimes and, if so, whether any occurred in Harrisburg.

“We're trying to see what's appropriate here,” said Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone.

White did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Vittone and Marsico talked about the situation this week, Vittone said, but he declined further comment, saying his office doesn't discuss its investigations.

Because the Legislature meets in the state capital, the Dauphin County district attorney frequently becomes involved in investigations of state officials or other high-profile cases.

“We haven't heard anything from either of these (district attorney) offices,” said Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

“Frank talked to Jesse on Monday,” Patton said. “They had a private discussion in Frank's office. Neither of them shared details.”

Dermody has said House officials determined White did not post his attacks from a state computer.

White, 33, who has openly clashed with gas-drilling companies, acknowledged last week that he wrote anonymous online posts and created fictional characters on Twitter and Facebook to attack constituents who support Marcellus shale drilling.

The aliases called White's critics “mouth breathers” and labeled industry supporters, including senior citizens, as “hucksters.” One name he used online was “Janice Gibson,” while criticizing constituent Janice Gibbs, who favors drilling. He used the name “Harold,” under which he called Gibbs “dumber than a box of rocks.”

White issued a statement apologizing for any “offensive or hurtful” actions.

Gibbs, 64, of Cecil and another of White's targets, Donald Roessler, 50, of Chartiers told the Tribune-Review this week that they received handwritten notes from White, offering to meet with them privately about “how to move forward from the unfortunate events that have occurred between us.”

Gibbs and Roessler said they're unlikely to take White up on the offer. They haven't decided whether to pursue criminal charges, such as harassment, with the district attorney.

Roessler said White should resign.

“There's no reason for a public official to be acting like that,” Roessler said after receiving White's letter. “I just don't see why he doesn't do the right thing and just step down and end this whole thing.”

Timothy Puko and Brad Bumsted are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Puko at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com. Reach Bumsted at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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