The Manzo example
HARRISBURG — Dauphin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Lewis hit the mark with sentences imposed on corrupt pols convicted of using state resources for campaigns. For the most part.
He was way off on one -- the sentencing of Michael Manzo, the much-maligned star witness of the state Attorney General's Office, whose testimony helped take down House Democratic Whip Mike Veon -- twice -- and former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, Manzo's former boss.
Manzo was sentenced to 18 to 48 months in prison. Some might say it's not enough for a central figure of the House Democrats' bonus scandal. Lewis said bonuses were Manzo's "brain child." The bonuses were used to reward Democrat staffers who worked on campaigns.
But here's the rub: Manzo cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate. He was instrumental in the Veon and DeWeese cases and he testified multiple times before investigative grand juries. That usually means a lot.
Prosecutors need a message sent that if you cooperate, you will, in effect, be rewarded with a lighter sentence. A prosecutor can't promise that. Only a judge can. But the deputy attorney general or assistant district attorney makes a recommendation to the judge, which often goes a long way.
Manzo received only three months less prison time than Brett Cott, a top Veon aide who did Veon's political work at taxpayers' expense. Manzo certainly was more culpable than Cott; he was higher on the food chain. But Cott appeared unrepentant. He didn't take responsibility. And he took the case to trial, which creates additional expenses for taxpayers.
Manzo manned up, saying it was not the "culture" causing the illegal acts; it was individuals who broke the law. And he said he was responsible for the theft of $1.2 million from taxpayers for political purposes. Veon, of course, gave Manzo the green light on the illegal bonus program, Manzo testified.
Manzo, unlike DeWeese, never blamed anyone else for the crimes. That was a frequent lament of DeWeese and, to a lesser extent, Veon. They were doing nothing differently from scores of legislators before them -- and after. DeWeese argued that the rules had changed in the middle of the game for legislative leaders.
That's true. The ethics case and prosecution of former Rep. Jeffrey Habay, R-Shaler, established that using state staff for campaign work was a felony. But the case was well known on Capitol Hill in 2004. By 2006, a Superior Court case upholding the Habay decision drew a bright line for lawmakers on what they could and could not do.
In the case of former Senate Majority Whip Jane Orie, a McCandless Republican, prosecuted by the Allegheny County district attorney for using staff for campaign work, Orie had a staffer keep a scrapbook on the Habay clippings, according to testimony. Orie was convicted in March and will be sentenced May 21.
Manzo's sentence is not that much less than two former House speakers' -- John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, and DeWeese -- who received 2 1⁄2 to five years in prison. They were the guys at the top calling the shots.
Judge Lewis seemed to carefully assign responsibility in connection with other factors. Veon was sentenced to 6 to 14 years in prison. Former Rep. Brett Feese, 4 to 12 years.
Perzel also cut a deal. His testimony was helpful in convicting Feese but not much else.
DeWeese had mitigating factors -- he was not involved in theft on a large scale, rather using Harrisburg and district staffers for his own campaigns.
Manzo owns up, helps the state and still gets a state prison sentence. Less than a year in a county lockup with work release would have been more fitting.
Brad Bumsted is the Trib's state Capitol reporter. Call him at 717-787-1405. Email him at: email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates edge Red Sox, 3-2, complete 3-game sweep
- Steelers’ Polamalu relying on smarts as physical skills decline
- Steelers’ Timmons looks to reverse defense’s struggles
- Ex-Gateway coach Smith making mark at Penn State
- Alligator spotted at Cheswick shoreline
- Pitt star running back Conner adjusting to higher profile this year
- Armed robberies reported in Lawrenceville
- Crosby, Malkin to miss start of Penguins camp
- Suburban Philadelphia high school coach resigns over role in gay beating
- Penguins notebook: Hornqvist, Spaling will lead by example
- Gorman: ‘Sisters first, tennis second’