HARRISBURG — Former House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese was sentenced today to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison for theft and other political corruption charges stemming from the wide-ranging Bonusgate investigation in the Capitol.
In sentencing DeWeese, Dauphin County President Judge Todd Hoover called the former legislator "the instigator" of the criminal activity, and said he violated the public trust. DeWeese, 62, who resigned his southwestern Pennsylvania legislative seat effective noon Tuesday, has said he will appeal his conviction.
Despite his sentence, DeWeese is running unopposed for his old seat in today's primary, setting the stage for his name to appear on the November ballot. Even if he is elected in the fall, he will not be able to serve in the legislature unless the courts grant his appeal.
DeWeese served in the legislature for nearly 36 years, and was in leadership for a good portion of this time, including a stint as House Speaker, as well as the leader of the House Democratic caucus.
The case against DeWeese grew out of the so-called Bonusgate investigation by the state Attorney General's Office, prompted by news reports that House Democratic aides were getting state bonuses for political work. Prosecutors said DeWeese directed, and in some cases even forced, legislative staffers to do campaign work while on the taxpayer time and dime.
In all, 25 defendants have been swept up in Bonusgate and its related cases. They include former legislators and staffers from both parties. Six, including DeWeese, have been convicted; two were acquitted; 15 have pleaded guilty; one had the charges dropped against him; and one defendant, former Democratic State Rep. Steve Stetler of York County, who later served as state revenue secretary, is to be tried later this year.
DeWeese is the only sitting legislator to be convicted on charges arising from the long-running and multifaceted probe.
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