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Crooked behavior spreading among prominent Pennsylvania personalities

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Friday, March 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It's a wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't investigating.

A lengthy epidemic of untoward behavior continues to sweep across Pennsylvania. It has triggered a feverish amount of illegal activities committed or allegedly committed by some of the state's most prominent personalities.

The outbreak originated several years ago in the state Legislature, forcing a number of high-ranking lawmakers and their aides to be quarantined in prison. But you know how these things spread. An uncovered cough here, an errant sneeze there and before you know it, everyone is calling off sick and scouring the Internet in search of a good defense attorney.

Unfortunately, unless such illnesses are immediately caught, the people who have them eventually are caught. Once that happens, it's usually only a matter of time until the plug is pulled on their careers.

Among those caught up in the unforgiving epidemic:

• State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin

Initial diagnosis: Chronic campaign syndrome

Patient was afflicted with a particularly virulent strain that resulted in her repeatedly using public resources for her political campaigns. Tragically, the same ailment earlier claimed her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie.

Career prognosis: Terminal, although her resignation isn't effective until six days before her May 7 sentencing. Patient conceivably could play a few early-season games on the high court's beer-league softball team before the ankle bracelet prevents her from properly patrolling right field.

• Former Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Joe Brimmeier

Initial diagnosis: Low-bid intolerance

Patient came down with this condition while allegedly participating in a bid-rigging and pay-to-play scheme that afflicted other commission employees, turnpike contractors and elected officials.

Career prognosis: Uncertain. Patient left the commission before the diagnosis, but his job prospects are jeopardized by his potential prison quarantine.

• Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper

Initial diagnosis: Strep theft

Ailment progressed undetected for years, prompting uncontrollable spasms of greed. Patient began tapping secret credit union accounts to pay for, among other things, a car radio, LCD TV and numerous bar and restaurant tabs, authorities charge.

Career prognosis: Terminal in law enforcement, but his ability to conceal money for years seemingly would give him a bright future as a corporate tax accountant.

• Beaver County Sheriff George David

Initial diagnosis: Eating disorder

Patient was charged Monday with terroristic threats, simple assault, witness intimidation, official oppression and reckless endangerment. A grand jury alleged that he binged on the power of his office, threatening a reporter with a gun and telling a campaign volunteer he would cut off his hands and consume them.

Career prognosis: Uncertain, as are the sheriff's immediate prospects for dinner invitations.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or

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