A Harrisburg district judge yesterday sent to county court for trial the case against state Rep. John Perzel, R-Phila., and eight co-defendants, the latest development in the state attorney general's 3 1/2- year legislative-corruption investigation.
Judge William Wenner dismissed four charges each against two of the defendants, but left intact dozens of others.,
The case centers on millions of taxpayer dollars spent on computer services that prosecutors say were illegally used on political campaigns.
Perzel, the former House speaker from Northeast Philly, said the six-day hearing left him with a sense "that being a politician is now illegal.
"The average person in Pennsylvania is not following this trial, most of the people in my neighborhood are not following this trial, OK?" said Perzel, who won the GOP nomination for a 17th two-year term in last week's primary.
"They're going to judge me based on the work that I've done in the past and the work that I'm going to do now," he added.
Wenner threw out four charges each against former state Rep. Brett Feese, R-Lycoming, and Jill Seaman, Feese's former assistant. Those counts related to handwritten notes that a grand jury said that Feese and Seaman concocted to mislead investigators into thinking that Feese had no idea about the illegal use of public resources for campaign purposes.
But that left intact the 448 remaining counts that the 10 defendants collectively face. Senior Deputy Attorney General Ken Brown said his higher-ups would decide whether to refile the dismissed counts.
In his argument to Wenner, Brown said the "goal is to take the people's money, covert it to their own use, to get re-elected. If you don't have to take money out of your own pocket, and you use that for your own purpose, that's private pecuniary interest," a violation of state law, Brown said.
Several defense attorneys argued to Wenner that their clients put in a full day's work - at least - to earn their state paychecks.
"I didn't know until I walked into this courtroom that 'campaign' is a dirty word," said Tim Woodward, attorney for Paul E. Towhey Jr., a former Perzel aide.
Woodward said the charging documents "promised a steak dinner. However, the evidence didn't provide more than a few appetizers."
The other defendants include Perzel's former chief of staff, Philadelphia lawyer Brian Preski; former Perzel aides Samuel "Buzz" Stokes and Don McClintock; and former Feese aide Al Bowman. Charges against a 10th defendant, John Zimmerman, were forwarded to Common Pleas Court on Monday.
No trial is expected until early next year.