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Another Politician Charged With Running Government Like An Organized Crime Syndicate

March 13, 2010

WELCOME TO HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

HOME OF CASH FOR KIDS AND JUDGES BEING PAID KICKBACKS TO SEND CHILDREN TO JAIL.

A jury began deliberations today in the political corruption case against former State Rep. Mike Veon and three ex-aides after a prosecutor described what they did as a “form of organized crime” with Veon as the don.

“They are not going to do anything without his direction and control,” Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington told the jury in his closing argument. “Once you get drunk with power you make the rules, you can change the rules. You think you are immune.”

After a six-week trial, the jury began digesting testimony from more than 50 witnesses and details from nearly 1,700 exhibits at 3 p.m.

They recessed for the day after two hours without reaching a verdict. They will return to deliberations Monday morning in a case that has, at the same time, riveted and shaken the political establishment in Harrisburg and could have implications for this year’s governor’s race.

Prosecutors allege that Veon (D., Beaver) was the brains behind $1.4 million in government bonuses that went to legislative staffers as rewards for working on campaigns between 2004 and 2006. His codefendants – former aides Brett Cott, Steve Keefer and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink – helped carry out that scheme, according to the charges brought by Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

In their closing to the jury Thursday, defense lawyers said the prosecution failed to make its case and relied on testimony from dubious witnesses who were given immunity or allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges.

Blessington, in his three-plus hour closing, warned the eight women and four men of the jury not to fall for the “misdirection” of the defense’s case, which he said resembled “a political campaign.”

“They treated it as an attack ad. It’s all about spin,” he said. “It’s all about throwing mud.”

Veon lost his reelection bid in 2006, ending a 22-year legislative career that saw him rise to the rank of whip.

As No. 2 Democrat in the House, Veon controlled a huge legislative staff and tasked them with campaign assignments on state time, from arranging fund-raisers and phone banks to unleashing attack emails and digging up dirt on political foes, prosecutors allege.

Blessington portrayed Veon, 53, as a man with “unadulterated arrogance” – a “feudal lord” bent on increasing his own political power even at the expense of the public.

“There is an old saying: Every tax dollar is paid for with the sweat of the taxpayers,” Blessington said. “…In this case, the victim is every taxpayer in this commonwealth.”

When Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis released three alternates from the jury this afternoon, one remaining juror asked if it was OK to say goodbye.

Some on the panel, who had bonded over the month-and-a-half long trial – the longest in Dauphin County’s modern history – shook hands with the departing trio while others exchanged hugs.

“I’ve been here for 35 years,” said Lewis of his tenure as a district attorney and judge, ” and I have never seen that.”
Story: Philly.com

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