HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — It was a stunningly clean sweep for state prosecutors today as a jury, after a week of deliberations, convicted former Republican state lawmaker Brett Feese on all counts in a public corruption case dubbed “Computergate.”
The corruption investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has already produced convictions in a case called “Bonusgate” (because it centered on allegations that taxpayer-funded bonuses were given for campaign work).
This case involved allegations that people associated with the state House Republican caucus used taxpayer resources to develop computer data for election purposes (see related story).
A jury has now convicted former GOP lawmaker Brett Feese on all 40 counts against him.
Prosecutor Frank Fina was asked if he was surprised by the totality of the verdict.
“Yes, I was surprised,” he told KYW Newsradio, “but it’s worthy of the evidence.”
The same question was put to Feese’s attorney, Joshua Lock.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years. It’s hard to be surprised by much of what happens in this business,” he said.
Former state House speaker John Perzel has already pleaded guilty in the case (see related story), but Feese himself maintained his innocence.
“I’m not guilty,” Feese said to reporters as he left the courthouse with his wife and lawyer.
The jury of six men and six women reached their verdicts after deliberating for a week following five weeks of testimony.
Jill Seaman, Feese’s former legislative aide and co-defendant, was convicted on identical charges in the scandal.
Feese stared downward as the jury foreman responded “guilty” to each of the 40 charges. Seaman slumped in her chair.
Dauphin County judge Richard Lewis tentatively set sentencing for January 9th.
Feese, 57, who served six terms in the House representing his Lycoming County district, and Seaman, 59, of Dauphin, were the first Republicans to stand trial among 25 people whom the state attorney general’s office has arrested since it began investigating the legislature in early 2007, while Republican governor Tom Corbett was the attorney general.
A tenth GOP defendant, former Perzel aide John Zimmerman, is being prosecuted separately.
Most of the testimony came from prosecution witnesses who either were granted immunity from prosecution or had agreed to plea bargains that required their cooperation in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges.
Feese is a former Lycoming County district attorney. After Perzel tapped him as chairman of the House GOP campaign committee in 2002, his political fortune soared — from becoming caucus chairman in 2002, to majority whip in 2003 to chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in 2004.
In 2007, after he left the legislature and as the investigation was heating up, he was hired as the caucus’ chief counsel.
Feese and Seaman each were convicted on 38 counts of conspiracy, theft and conflict of interest, plus one count each of hindering apprehension and obstruction. The charges were divided into separate sets for each of seven alleged criminal episodes: three involving the use of different groups of caucus employees for campaign work; three involving interaction with consultants; and one involving an alleged attempt to falsify evidence to mislead investigators about the defendants’ involvement.
Reported by KYW Harrisburg bureau chief Tony Romeo