HARRISBURG - There is enough evidence for the case against State Rep. John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) and nine others to proceed to trial, a district judge ruled Thursday.
Judge William Wenner determined that attorneys from the state Attorney General's Office had met the burden of proof during a preliminary hearing to try the case before a jury. The case involves charges that Perzel and the others conspired to use public money for campaign purposes.
Prosecutors say Perzel spent nearly $10 million in taxpayer money to create as many as a dozen software programs designed to give him and fellow GOP politicians an upper hand in elections.
Leaving the courthouse in Dauphin County Thursday afternoon, Perzel pointed out that his campaign had spent $17 million during the course of four elections, and that the House Republican Campaign Committee had spent another $31 million on campaigns.
"They aren't cover numbers, they are real numbers," he said.
Asked what he had taken away from the preliminary hearing, the Northeast Philadelphia Republican added: "That being a politician is now illegal, that's what I've learned."
Perzel's attorney, Brian J. McMonagle, added that none of the 10 defendants in the case had done anything but work hard for the commonwealth, and that there was no criminal conspiracy to rip off taxpayers.
"We believe now, more than ever, that when these people go to trial, they will be acquitted of all charges," McMonagle said.
Perzel is charged with 82 counts of theft, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and conflict of interest in the alleged misuse of state resources for campaigns. He is fighting the charges.
The other nine people charged in the case - including former Perzel chief of staff Brian Preski and former Rep. Brett Feese of Lycoming County - all had ties to the House Republican caucus.
Wenner dropped a total of eight counts against two of the defendants in the case, including four against Feese. Those counts involved obstruction of justice.
A trial date has yet to be scheduled, but Wenner, who conducted the six-day hearing over the course of the last month, set the arraignment for July 8.
The ruling comes as a report from the state grand jury investigating corruption in the Capitol recommends sweeping changes in how the legislature conducts business.
Among other findings, the grand jury said that legislative employees have spent an enormous amount of time doing campaign work on state time. The grand jury said the legislature is stuck in a " 'time warp' of corruption," and recommended cutting legislative staff, instituting term limits for lawmakers, and moving to a part-time legislature.