HARRISBURG - Two ex-aides of former House Speaker John Perzel today pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges in connection with the sweeping Bonusgate" probe into use of public money for campaign purposes.

Samuel "Buzz" Stokes, of Philadelphia, Perzel's brother-in-law and former campaign manager, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of conflict of interest in Dauphin County Court.

Defense lawyer Robert Donatoni of West Chester told Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis that his client accepted the plea because he felt it was "in his best interest." Later Donatoni explained that his client, who is 69, did not want to endure what was expected to be a trial lasting at least three months.

Don McClintock, of Voohees, N.J., pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal conspiracy. His court-appointed attorney, Joseph Curcillo, said McClintock took the plea deal "after considering all the evidence."

Both of the charges relate to the state House Republican technology office's use of taxpayer money to develop information programs that were used for campaign purposes, said Kenneth Brown, senior deputy attorney general, in the 25-minute court proceeding.

Both Stokes and McClintock could face maximum sentences of five years on each count and fines of up to $10,000.

Lewis deferred the sentencing, which is not expected until after the trial, Donatoni said.

Paul Towhey, of Blue Bell, Perzel's former chief of staff, is scheduled to plead guilty to similar charges on Friday, according to the state Attorney General's office.

Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for Attorney General Linda Kelly, said the plea agreements call for the witnesses' cooperation against the remaining seven defendants - among them, Perzel, once among the state's most powerful politicians.

Perzel has maintained his innocence.

The three individuals entering pleas this week are among 10 people associated with the House Republican caucus, including Perzel and ex-GOP lawmaker Brett Feese of Lycoming County, charged as part of the Bonusgate investigation launched by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett in 2007.

In all 15 Democrats were charged, including Rep. Bill DeWeese, the former House Democratic leader, of Greene County. Former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon and his former aide, Brett Cott, are serving prison sentences, while seven others took plea deals. DeWeese and former state Rep. Stephen Stetler, a Democrat who held a cabinet post under then-Gov. Ed Rendell, await trial.

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