Print

DeWeese takes the witness stand

Published by Laura Olson on .

It's getting tense in the Dauphin County courthouse, as state prosecutors take over questioning of state Rep. Bill DeWeese as he defends himself on the witness stand against public corruption charges.

The Waynesburg legislator is vigorously disputing the prosecutor's questions as they go through his background. Those questions come after an hour and a half of queries from his defense attorney, during which he repeatedly insisted that he expected staffers to separate legislative and political work.

At look at the first half of the morning, from our breaking news page:

His responses to questions from defense attorney William Costopoulos mostly were calm and concise. Bu they became tinged with anger as he read a June 2004 note from a caucus aide to several district staffers.

He shouted the final line: "[DeWeese] wants to make sure that staff activities remain within legal limits."

That memo was scribbled in response to the then-investigation of former Republican state Rep. Jeff Habay of having legislative staffers perform campaign work on state time. Mr. Habay was convicted a year later of those charges.

"I wanted to make sure my troops were doing the right thing even when just the newspapers were talking about Mr. Habay," Mr. DeWeese told jurors, as his mother and girlfriend looked on.

That policy continued in 2007, when a Harrisburg Patriot-News report raised questions about a bonus program in place for House Democratic staffers, he said.

Mr. DeWeese, then the House majority leader, said his immediate directions to top staffers were fourfold: "Tell the truth, destroy nothing, cooperate with Attorney General Corbett, and leave no stone unturned."

He repeatedly referred to his own cooperation with the state attorney general's office, including testifying before a state grand jury, from the time that news broke to when charges were filed against him in December 2009.

"I didn't do anything wrong," Mr. DeWeese said. "I don't believe I needed any immunity and still feel that way."

Mr. DeWeese, 61, faces six counts of theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy. He next will face questions from state prosecutors on cross-examination as court resumes this morning.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.