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Jury holds Veon's fate in 2nd trial

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Friday, March 2, 2012
 

HARRISBURG -- A Beaver County nonprofit organization "was like a mask Mike Veon was wearing robbing a bank," said a prosecutor seeking to persuade a Dauphin County jury to convict the former state representative in his second corruption trial.

Veon used the Beaver Initiative for Growth "in a very personal way for his own benefit," said Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter. She called him "a thief" during closing arguments on Thursday.

Veon's attorney, Dan Raynak, argued that his client "never took a cent" from the organization.

Convicted or not, Veon, 55, will return to Laurel State Correctional Institution as inmate No. JP4714, according to a state prison spokeswoman. A jury convicted Veon of 13 felonies and a misdemeanor in 2010 for approving an illegal $1.4 million program to award staff bonuses for campaign work, and he's serving six to 14 years.

Yesterday, the jury of six men and six women deliberated about three hours without reaching a verdict. Deliberations will resume this morning, the 10th day of the trial.

Veon, the former House Democratic whip, faces 15 charges of misusing money from the nonprofit he founded in 1992 and for which he obtained $10 million in state grants over the years. Veon formed the nonprofit, known as BIG, to spur development in Beaver County.

Raynak asked the jury not to convict his client based on the "word of a convicted felon beholden to the prosecution," referring to prosecution witness Jeffrey Foreman, an attorney convicted of corruption in another case.

Foreman's testimony is critical to the state's case. His Harrisburg law firm received $4,000 monthly to perform little or no work, Foreman said, as a favor for his loyalty as Veon's chief of staff. Foreman testified that Veon asked him to ensure that the president of a development company in 2004 paid his brother Mark Veon a salary of more than $100,000.

Brandstetter acknowledged Veon did not steal money directly from BIG, but she said he devised schemes to bolster his re-election chances so he could keep his state job and benefits.

Attorney Michael Palermo, who represents co-defendant Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, urged jurors to acquit her of six charges. She worked as Veon's district office director and was a BIG employee.

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