Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Ex-legislator concedes anthrax case

Allegheny County's Jeff Habay pleaded no contest to charges he faked an attack from a political foe.

PITTSBURGH - Former State Rep. Jeff Habay pleaded no contest yesterday to all charges stemming from his alleged false reports to police that he was the target of an anthrax hoax perpetrated by a political opponent.

The plea means Habay, 40, does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict him. He was sentenced to four to eight months in prison, but the term was stayed pending his appeal of a previous conviction on a separate conflict-of interest-charge.

Habay (R., Allegheny) wanted to resolve the case and spare his family a lengthy trial, said his lawyer, Patrick Thomassey.

"He just wanted to get it done with," Thomassey said.

Habay is accused of reporting to authorities in May 2004 that he was mailed an envelope containing white powder by George Radich, one of several constituents who had asked a judge to order an audit of Habay's political action committee.

Allegheny County prosecutors charged that Habay faked the anthrax attack to smear Radich, whose wife formerly worked for Habay.

Radich mailed two letters to notify Habay that legal action was being taken against him, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus said. When Habay handed one of the envelopes to authorities, it contained a white powder that was later found to be baking soda.

Authorities filed 21 charges against Habay in March 2005, including possessing or using a facsimile weapon of mass destruction and diversion of services - both felonies - and lesser counts of criminal mischief, harassment and retaliation against a witness.

Habay also was accused of using his legislative staff to dig up dirt on constituents who were part of Radich's lawsuit, and their family members.

Judge Lester Nauhaus noted Habay no longer was eligible for a state pension and had lost his medical coverage.

"I don't know I can punish Mr. Habay any more than he has been punished," Nauhaus said. "Mr. Habay, what should I do with you?"

Habay asked for probation, but Nauhaus sentenced him to four to eight months and ordered him to pay more than $10,000 in restitution to the state and U.S. Postal Service.