HARRISBURG - Prosecutors warned in a court motion obtained by the Associated Press that the corruption case against former State Rep. Mike Veon and Democratic legislative aides may hinge on how a judge rules in a battle over e-mail evidence.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said in papers filed in Dauphin County Court on Tuesday that defense attorneys did not have a legal basis to support their demands about proving that e-mails are valid and viewed in the proper context.

He said the dispute, previously waged in secret before the judge overseeing grand-jury matters, needed to be resolved before the trial begins next month for Veon, a Beaver County Democrat, and as many as four others.

The defendants, accused of diverting state workers and resources for political campaigns or other purposes, were among the first 12 to be charged in a three-year probe that has resulted in 25 arrests and one acquittal.

The e-mail issue "has been lingering undecided for over six months, and continues to resurface with a vengeance in almost every proceeding," Fina wrote. "Exclusion of the commonwealth's e-mail evidence on the grounds offered by the defense would 'terminate or substantially handicap the prosecution.' "

Veon lawyer Dan Raynak said yesterday that prosecutors had provided e-mails without giving defendants access to hard drives and other elements that could establish authenticity.

The dispute includes e-mails turned over to prosecutors by former Majority Leader Bill DeWeese (D., Greene) and House Democratic lawyers as part of their cooperation with the investigation.

"Instead of doing a search warrant, they did a subpoena. They relied on Bill DeWeese and his staff of attorneys to decide what should be turned over, and we have a problem with that," Raynak said. "We want the full story, not just the portion of the story that Mr. DeWeese wanted the prosecution to see."

Fina's motion said the defendants had not pointed out any e-mail that was allegedly altered or provided a legal precedent for their standards regarding admissibility. He asked the judge to resolve the matter.

"Deferral of this issue until trial will result in lengthy, hostile sidebars that would waste the jury's time and prolong the trial," Fina wrote.

DeWeese was charged Dec. 15 in the investigation but is not a part of this trial, scheduled to start Jan. 19.

Raynak said he would soon ask the presiding judge to delay the trial because prosecutors recently had handed over a large volume of evidence.

Phone messages seeking comment from the Attorney General's Office were not returned yesterday.