PITTSBURGH - The criminal case against celebrity pathologist Cyril Wecht ended yesterday when federal prosecutors, citing a judge's ruling that threw out much of the government's evidence, dropped all the remaining fraud and theft counts against him.
Prosecutors originally indicted Wecht, the former Allegheny County medical examiner, on 84 counts in January 2006. The case was whittled down before trial, which ended in a hung jury, and trimmed again after trial. Wecht had 14 counts remaining, but the government's case was undermined when a judge threw out two search warrants.
"The district court's May 14 ruling suppressed crucial evidence in the case," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said yesterday. "This impacted our ability to present our evidence at any future trial and to sustain our burden of proof."
Wecht, 78, is renowned for his work on deaths such as those of Elvis Presley, JonBenet Ramsey, and Vince Foster. He has testified in numerous high-profile cases and was a frequent TV guest in the months preceding the 1994 O.J. Simpson homicide trial.
The final counts dropped yesterday had accused him of overbilling private clients for limousines and air fares; ripping off prosecutors for mileage fees as an expert witness; and using his county government staff to benefit his multimillion-dollar private practice.
When Wecht was first indicted and resigned his county job, the main accusations against him were the same, but were more detailed and, in one instance, more macabre. Among other things, Wecht was accused of giving unclaimed cadavers for students to study at a local university in return for private lab and office space.
Wecht was pleased that the case was dropped and was critical of Buchanan, saying she had no shame.
"Is this the way justice is pursued in America? I think the record will speak for itself. As for her record, that will speak for itself too," he said at a news conference, where he held up a framed order of the case's dismissal.
He said he would continue working as a pathologist and expert witness, and is considering writing a book.
Buchanan defended the prosecution.
"This was a use of county resources, a use of our taxpayer dollars for private gain," Buchanan said. "That's fraud, that's a crime, and this case was worth bringing."