U.S. inquires into Wecht's activities

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Federal authorities are investigating Dr. Cyril H. Wecht's activities as Allegheny County coroner, Wecht's attorney said yesterday.

"It's an inquiry into Dr. Wecht's activities and endeavors as the coroner and his professional activities as a leading forensic pathologist in America," said attorney David Armstrong.

Officials with the U.S. attorney's office and FBI would not comment last night.

Last month it was disclosed that Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. had launched a criminal investigation of Wecht. The probe concerns $5,000 paid to Wecht by a law firm representing a man killed in 2002 in a scuffle with police in Mount Oliver.

Wecht, acting in his capacity as a private forensic pathologist, wrote a report for the family of Charles Dixon for use in the family's federal lawsuit against Mount Oliver police. The lawsuit was settled for $850,000.

Acting as coroner in the same matter, Wecht recommended that Zappala pursue homicide charges against police.

"There is evidence that the coroner is using his public office for personal, pecuniary gain," Zappala said last month.

Zappala's spokesman, Mike Manko, would not comment last night. It could not be determined if the federal probe was related to Zappala's inquiry.

Wecht in 1993 paid a $200,000 civil settlement stemming from allegations that he improperly used his public office for private gain. He was tried and cleared in criminal court in 1981 on a charge of theft of services.

He could not be reached last night, but Armstrong said the coroner was "amazed, because there's nothing to investigate."

Staff writers Cindi Lash and Nicole Fuller contributed. Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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