HARRISBURG - Onetime House Speaker Bill DeWeese and former Revenue Secretary Stephen Stetler yesterday joined the list of current and former officeholders to be fingerprinted, photographed, relieved of passports, and freed on bail in the so-called Bonusgate inquiry.
Bail was set at $50,000 each for DeWeese and Stetler, a day after they were accused of misusing public funds for campaign purposes.
As he left a district magistrate's office near Harrisburg, DeWeese, 59, said he was "disappointed" by the charges.
Addressing a scrum of reporters, he recounted in fine detail how he had obliged Attorney General Tom Corbett's investigation since its start nearly three years ago.
DeWeese (D., Greene) recalled how, as majority leader in early 2007, he had ordered all records preserved, had hired former state inspector general Bill Chadwick to write new ethics rules for House Democrats, and had given prosecutors everything they asked for. "Our cooperation was at the dizzying zenith," he said.
DeWeese declined to answer questions before ducking into a car that whisked him to a police department to be fingerprinted and photographed.
DeWeese is accused of using state staff as his taxpayer-funded campaign team. "DeWeese's legislative staff and campaign staff were virtually one in the same," said the grand jury presentment that Corbett made public Tuesday.
The charges against Stetler center on events before his tenure as revenue secretary. Prosecutors allege that as a legislator, Stetler oversaw House aides who, on state time, did "opposition research" on political foes.
Stetler, 60, a Democrat, represented York in the House for 16 years before stepping down in 2006. Gov. Rendell tapped him as revenue secretary last year. Stetler quit that post hours before the charges against him were announced.
Stetler declined comment as he left the magistrate's office. His lawyer, Joshua Lock, said he had not reviewed the case enough to comment.
A longtime DeWeese legislative aide, Sharon Rodavich, was also freed on $50,000 bail. Rodavich, Stetler, and DeWeese face six counts each, including theft and conspiracy.
The charges bring to 25 the number of current and former House legislators and aides from both parties to face Bonusgate charges. The list includes another former speaker, Rep. John M. Perzel (R., Phila.). Prosecutors say he spent $10 million in public funds to build databases designed to help him and other Republicans win elections.
Perzel has denied wrongdoing and accused Corbett of using the case to help his campaign for governor.
On Nov. 13, Perzel went through the same booking process as DeWeese, with a notable difference: handcuffs. DeWeese, Stetler, and Rodavich avoided that indignity by going first to the magistrate's office to be freed on bail before being booked by police. Their lawyers said state rules do not dictate the order of such events.
Whether more charges may follow in the probe remains to be seen. Last month, Stetler, DeWeese, and House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne) received letters from prosecutors inviting them to testify before a grand jury in what sometimes is a prelude to charges. Eachus has steadfastly declined to comment.