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Saturday, March 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG

Up at Hunlock Creek in Luzerne County, former House Speaker Bill DeWeese can't wait to shed that prison jumpsuit, flex those pumped-up biceps and return to the real world.

DeWeese, a Waynesburg Democrat serving a 2½-to-5-year prison term for using state resources for campaigns, will be paroled on or about this Friday from the state prison at Retreat. He gets out early through a 2008 law that enables nonviolent offenders who complete their programs to shorten their sentences. The idea is to free prison space for hard-core offenders.

DeWeese's “true minimum” release date is Nov. 14, according to the Department of Corrections. He entered the prison system at Camp Hill State Correctional Institution on May 15, 2012. DeWeese misused about $125,000 in state tax money by forcing staffers to work on his campaigns, prosecutors said.

The former Greene County legislator is one of eight former legislative leaders imprisoned at the same time. Two more remain behind bars. Those doing the hardest time are former House Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, whose earliest release date is June 18, 2015, and former House GOP lawyer and former whip Brett Feese, who might get out in April 2015.

It was extremely disappointing that I never heard from DeWeese. After all, his picture was on the cover of my book, “Keystone Corruption,” with four others. He had top billing. There were two chapters about DeWeese, which very few others can say. There even were a few nice things said about DeWeese because I always enjoyed his sometimes outrageous behavior.

My publisher, Camino Books, sent copies of my book to all eight ex-leaders doing time. DeWeese was the one guy I thought would write back. Ah, the loquacious Mr. DeWeese. But the contact never came — until last week.

It was a St. Patrick's Day card in which DeWeese said he wants to soon “share his viewpoints” with me. I am hoping to hear his rap song about Gov. Tom Corbett, the ex-attorney general who sent him to prison. The song wasn't mentioned but I've heard some of the lyrics secondhand.

Included in the card were two of my recent columns. DeWeese had neatly written notes at the top, bottom and in the side margins. One was about former acting Attorney General Bill Ryan, Corbett's immediate successor, who, in February 2011, changed the email retention policy from five years under Corbett to six months.

“This is wrong ... just wrong. All the emails against me were 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 years old,” DeWeese wrote. Those emails went back to 2001 for a 2012 trial, he said.

Another column met with his liking, one noting how Corbett didn't seize the opportunity for legislative reform in January 2011. The column was filled with self-serving comments from DeWeese about how he had advocated reform. That's true, but not for the bulk of his career in leadership.

Only after the bonuses scandal did Bill DeWeese embrace reform.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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