The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

March 21, 2012

Perzel gets at least 2 1/2 years in corruption case

HARRISBURG — Former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel was ordered today to spend at least 2 1/2 years in prison and pay $1 million in restitution for his role in a scheme to use public resources for campaign purposes.

The once-powerful lawmaker sat stone-faced as Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis handed down his sentence but offered a short apology before the judge issued his decision.

“I’ve embarrassed myself, my family and the people of Pennsylvania,” Perzel said.

Perzel was among seven Republican defendants who pleaded guilty in the case. Prosecutors say he masterminded a scheme to spend millions of dollars on computer technology and expertise to give GOP candidates an advantage in election campaigns.

Two other Republican defendants stood trial and were convicted of 40 criminal counts each last fall. Former Rep. Brett Feese of Lycoming County is serving at least four years in state prison and his former aide, Jill Seaman, was sentenced to at least nine months in county jail.

Perzel had no comment as he left the courtroom. Defense attorney Brian McMonagle said he felt Lewis fully considered his client’s good works and the impact of his crimes in handing down the sentence.

Perzel was also fined $30,000.

Former Perzel chief of staff Brian Preski got 2 to 4 years in prison and $37,500 in fines, plus $1 million in restitution.

Eric Ruth, a former employee of the House technology office, got probation and $50,000 in restitution. He will take care of Perzel’s wife, who has multiple sclerosis.

Perzel, a prodigious campaign fundraiser who led the GOP to electoral gains in the Legislature, served in the House for more than three decades until he was ousted in the 2010 election.

He presided as House speaker from 2003 to 2007, encompassing most of the period that state prosecutors put under a microscope in their wide-ranging investigation.

Testimony at the Feese-Seaman trial indicated that Perzel once harbored hopes of being elected governor. A former top aide said a fledgling plan for a Perzel campaign in 2010 was spiked amid voter backlash over the hefty pay raises that lawmakers awarded themselves in July 2005 and later repealed.

As part of the plea deal he struck with prosecutors, Perzel testified at the six-week trial of Feese, a onetime GOP rising star who oversaw political fundraising as chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, and Feese’s former aide Seaman.

On the witness stand, Perzel told the jury that Feese “would have to have known” about the illegal activity because it was common knowledge among top caucus officials, but said Seaman may not have been aware.

Perzel, who was originally charged with 82 counts, was allowed to plead guilty to two counts of conflict of interest, two counts of theft and four counts of conspiracy. Prosecutors had said the standard sentencing range would be a prison term of 18 months to slightly more than four years.

Preski, 46, a Philadelphia lawyer, was originally a co-defendant of Feese and Seaman, but he changed his mind and pleaded guilty on the third day of prosecution testimony.

Perzel’s longtime chief of staff, Brian Preski and two others are also scheduled to be sentenced on the case today.

Preski, who originally faced 54 counts, pleaded to two theft charges, five conspiracy counts and three counts of conflict of interest.

Al Bowman, a one-time Feese aide who worked with one of several contractors hired by the House GOP caucus to develop special software for candidates, was also sentenced Wednesday. He got probation and was fined $2,500.

Three other Republicans who pleaded guilty in the case were sentenced Tuesday to probation and fines on Tuesday.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Flower2 Flowers' color doesn't have to fade

    Those pots of bright yellow daffodils, Easter lilies and hyacinths gracing the home this weekend do not have to end up in the trash bin when the blooms start to fade.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Refinancing could lower Richland School District's debt by $2.2M

    When Richland School District borrowed funds for its high school project a decade ago, board members circled “2014” on their calendars as a likely first option to refinance the debt.

    April 20, 2014

  • Pipeline to carry shale byproducts

    An 8-inch transmission line crossing Pennsylvania, including four municipalities in Cambria County, is being repurposed to carry some of the by-products from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

    April 20, 2014

  • Judge Creany, Timothy Vets courts gain support

    Signs of success are mostly anecdotal in Pennsylvania’s special courts for veterans, but judicial officials and lawmakers are so convinced of the program, they’re lobbying to expand it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • pow21 Person of the Week: ‘I wanted to help’: Teen uses birthday to show love for children, animals

    Anastasia Machik’s love for children and animals inspired her to forgo her birthday gifts for the sake of the two.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse

    An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.

    April 20, 2014

  • In brief: PennDOT reports weekly work schedule

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads