Rep. John M. Perzel, the former speaker of the state House, was led in handcuffs this morning into a district magistrate's office where he was ordered to turn over his passport before being released on $100,000 bond for 82 counts of corruption leveled yesterday by the Attorney General's Office.
"This investigation has gone on for a long time. I am looking forward to the opportunity to prove my innocence in court," said Perzel, 59, a Republican from Philadelphia, as he pushed through a throng of TV cameras and reporters at the entrance of magistrate District Judge William C. Wenner in Lower Paxton Township in suburban Harrisburg.
Perzel arrived at the judge's office shortly after being processed at a local police station.
He was charged yesterday with theft, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and conflict of interest. A grand jury said he and others had misused public money for campaign purposes and then tried to cover it up.
Perzel, who has represented Northeast Philadelphia for 30 of his 59 years, became the most prominent political figure charged to date in the long-running investigation unofficially known as Bonusgate. Nine other people with ties to the House Republican caucus were charged.
Others charged preceded him at the court, including his former chief of staff, Brian Preski. Preski's attorney, William Winning, said, "Brian has an absolutely impeccable reputation. He has served the Capitol with distinction for many, many years. These charges are not warranted." Preski had no comment.
All the defendants were brought in with their hands cuffed in front of them except for former State Rep. Brett Feese, former chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Feese's attorney, Josh Lock, took his client straight to magisterial court, bypassing the police station. The tactic prevented what Lock described as the humiliation of his client being photographed while in handcuffs.
He called it "mindless medieval cruelty" on the part of the Attorney General's Office. "It is a French Revolution model of arrest," Lock said.
As of 11 this morning, the preliminary arraignments were continuing. Six of the 10 defendants had gone through the process and were released on bond. A date for their formal arraignment, in which they will enter pleas, has not been set.