Judge approves dismissal of some Wecht charges
A federal judge today approved the elimination of more than half the public corruption charges against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and ordered that the charges cannot be filed again should the government lose at trial.
"It simply would not be fair to Dr. Wecht, at this late stage of the proceedings, to allow the specter of future prosecution on the dismissed counts to hang over his head throughout jury selection and trial," U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab wrote in a 12-page order.
Last week, prosecutors filed a motion requesting to drop 43 of the 84 counts of fraud and theft related to allegations that Wecht, 76, of Squirrel Hill used his public office while Allegheny County coroner for private gain. They requested to drop the charges without prejudice, which means they could have been filed again.
Wecht's lawyers objected, saying that could expose their client to double jeopardy and ongoing harassment by the government.
They also asked Schwab to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine if prosecutors acted in bad faith by dropping half its case on the eve of trial. Schwab declined.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday, with the trial to start Jan. 28.
Schwab agreed to drop the charges after the jury is empanelled, which Wecht's lawyers requested so that jeopardy would attach and jurors would know about the government's actions.
Schwab granted a defense team request to bar prosecutors from submitting 10,000 pages of Wecht's bank records at this stage of the case.
The judge also agreed to allow certain exhibits pertaining to the Wecht Institute at Duquesne University, which were part of the charges dropped by the government, to be used by the defense. Wecht's lawyers say the exhibits help disprove some of the government's original allegations.
On Tuesday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will consider a request by local news organizations, including the Tribune-Review, to reverse Schwab's decision to keep the public from know juror identities. Media lawyers have requested that the appeals court delay jury selection and possibly the trial if a decision cannot be made by then.
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.
- Penguins notebook: No discipline for Capitals’ Wilson
- Ruling favors Vikings’ Peterson, sets up reinstatement
- Shoulder injury sidelines top-seeded 126-pounder at WPIAL wrestling tournament
- Pennsylvania House passes liquor system privatization bill
- Rossi: Winnik nice, but not enough for Penguins
- Bettman `intrigued’ by possible outdoor game at Beaver Stadium
- Previously convicted of embezzlement, Mt. Pleasant postal worker accused of mail theft
- Woman charged for holding teen drinking party after video found at Penn-Trafford
- Ukrainian sides pull heavy weapons from front in 11th-hour effort to comply with Minsk agreement
- Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen
- Federal grand jury indicts chief operations manager for Pittsburgh office of Horizons Hospice