Ex-Pa. speaker Perzel gets up to 5 years
HARRISBURG -- Former House Speaker John Perzel got less prison time than some other key figures in a public corruption scandal because the Philadelphia Republican cooperated with authorities, a top prosecutor said on Wednesday.
"If they step forward, take responsibility and cooperate, it makes all the difference in the world," Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said after a Dauphin County judge sentenced Perzel to 2 1⁄2 to 5 years in prison for his guilty pleas to eight felony counts.
"I've embarrassed myself, my friends, my family and the people of Pennsylvania," Perzel said. "They gave me a great honor. I disgraced them, and I am sorry."
At the same hearing, Common Pleas Judge Richard Lewis sentenced Perzel's chief of staff, Brian Preski, to a 24- to 48-month prison term for using state resources for campaigns. Preski pleaded guilty at trial but declined to testify against anyone. The judge placed on probation two lesser aides who pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.
"We're pleased with the sentences. I think these sentences were entirely consistent with their cooperation," Fina said.
Perzel, 62, headed a scheme to use millions of dollars of tax money for his campaign and to keep Republicans in control of the House.
Preski and Perzel, the former restaurant maitre d' from Northeast Philadelphia who became the most powerful Republican in the House, could have their sentences cut by two months under a program for nonviolent offenders.
Witnesses asked for mercy, telling Lewis that Perzel is a good man, he's repentant and his wife has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair.
"I think the judge took everything under consideration, including his enormous good works," said attorney Brian McMonagle. "I really do."
Lewis said he took Perzel's wife's illness into account as well. He mentioned the more than 100 letters written on Perzel's behalf and said he prayed over his decision.
Perzel stood motionless, showing no emotion as the judge imposed the sentence. Earlier, he hung his head slightly at the defense table. He must report to the Dauphin County jail on April 11 before he goes to state prison. Preski must report on the same day, Lewis said.
Perzel lost a pension worth more than $1 million as a result of his conviction, McMonagle said. Lewis ordered Perzel and Preski each to pay $1 million in restitution.
The judge, who called the $10 million conspiracy "a shocking and flagrant violation of the public trust," said Perzel was the architect of the theft of tax dollars for campaigns. As such, his sentence could have been steeper.
In 2010, Lewis sentenced former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon to six to 14 years in prison for approving $1.4 million used for bonuses to reward legislative staffers who campaigned. Like Veon, a lesser figure in the GOP scandal, former House Republican Whip Brett Feese of Lycoming County fought the case through trial. Feese is serving a four- to 12-year prison term.
Perzel testified against Feese, whom a jury convicted in November.
Prosecutors said Perzel cooperated with law enforcement on unrelated cases, but Fina declined to identify those cases.
Perzel and Preski were among 10 Republicans charged in November 2009. Prosecutors said defendants purchased $10 million in computer equipment, programs and databases at taxpayer expense and used them for campaigns.
Perzel had a penchant for cutting-edge computer technology and was convinced of its application in campaigns, according to a grand jury report.
Seven of the GOP defendants entered guilty pleas, and two, including Feese, were convicted at trial. One case was dismissed.
They are among 21 people of both parties who pleaded guilty or were convicted by juries stemming from the state attorney general's investigation into the use of public resources for campaigns.
Fina declined to say whether the investigation has ended.
Eric Ruth -- Perzel's nephew and a former aide -- was sentenced on Tuesday to 60 months of probation. Elmer "Al" Bowman, another staffer, received 18 months of probation.
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.
- Feds accused of bullying state over police test
- Pennsylvania human services agency gets new name
- Conneaut Lake Park to take case to court for tax-exempt status
- ‘Consolidation’ might be the word for some shale companies
- Attorney general Kane reverses claim about child porn in emails
- Pa. Senator Casey pushes lawmakers on VA disability bill
- Pennsylvania legislative leader Costa blasts suggestion of session before Wolf sworn in as governor
- Ohio woman shot to death nearly 3 days before police find body in Neshannock home
- Geologist: Site of idyllic 1833 painting of Lancaster found