Veon and 2 aides guilty in scheme to fund campaign

HARRISBURG -- After a grueling, seven-week trial, a Dauphin County Common Pleas Court jury returned a mixed verdict Monday night in the criminal trial of former state Rep. Mike Veon and three associates.

Mr. Veon, 53, the former No. 2 Democrat in the state House, was convicted of 14 of 59 counts.

He was convicted of seven counts of conflict of interest, three counts of theft by deception, two counts of theft of services and two counts of conspiracy.

Mr. Veon's former office manager, Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, 47, of Beaver Falls, was convicted of five of 22 counts.

Former top research analyst Brett Cott, 37, of Harrisburg was convicted of three of the 42 criminal charges filed against him.

But Stephen Keefer, the former Democratic caucus director of information, was acquitted of all 16 counts that he faced.

Mrs. Perretta-Rosepink and Mr. Veon had no visible reaction to the verdict, while Mr. Keefer, 39, of Lebanon County, cried and hugged his attorney, William Fetterhoff.

Mr. Cott, who was acquitted of most of his charges, smiled upon hearing the verdict against him.

After the verdict was read, Mr. Veon, Ms. Peretta-Rosepink and Mr. Cott, all were released under the terms of their bonds. They are scheduled to be back in court for sentencing on May 21.

At the center of the case was a scheme to award more than $1.4 million in publicly funded bonuses to state workers in exchange for work on campaigns between 2004 and 2006. The defendants also were accused of directing legislative aides to do political work on state time, in state buildings and on state equipment.

Dauphin County jurors held Mr. Veon responsible for the scheme by convicting him of six of 10 charges associated with the bonuses. Meanwhile, they acquitted Mrs. Perretta-Rosepink and Mr. Cott of those charges but found them guilty of other transgressions.

For Mr. Cott, those involved using state resources for campaigns other than Mr. Veon's. He was found guilty of one count each of conspiracy, theft of services and conflict of interest.

Mrs. Perretta-Rosepink's five convictions, meanwhile, relate to using state resources to work on Mr. Veon's political campaigns and other campaigns between 2004 and 2006. She was convicted of two counts of conflict of interest, two counts of theft of services and one count of conspiracy.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys had a markedly different take on the verdicts.

Senior Deputy State Attorney General E. Marc Constanzo said, "We have a very positive reaction to the verdicts. We are satisfied with the hard work the jury put in and the conscientious work on their part."

He said Mr. Veon was charged in 11 different "criminal episodes" and was found guilty of at least one charge in seven of the episodes.

As for the many other charges where the four were acquitted, he said he was "not at all disappointed. There were charges on a number of criminal episodes and they were found guilty of a good many of them."

But attorney Bryan Walk, who defended Mr. Cott, noted that his client was convicted of just three of 42 counts.

He said none of those convictions related to bonuses being paid for political work, which, he said, was the original reason for the attorney general's investigation.

"We are happy with that," he said. "We are happy the jury didn't buy into the state's case. That says something about the attorney general's office, to put together a case that really didn't amount to a whole lot."Jurors left the building last night after the verdict without talking to reporters.

In addition to charges related to the bonus scheme, Mr. Veon was found guilty of counts related to using state resources, such as staff to raise money for his political campaigns, to work on others' campaigns, to create a de facto campaign office in the Capitol and to transport his motorcycles from Utah to a bike rally in South Dakota.

Mr. Veon's attorney, Dan Raynak, said he was disappointed in the verdict and expected to appeal.

"I compliment the jury on a fine job they did, but on a personal level I'm very disappointed. It was a difficult case. It involved some tough issues and I think the jury did the best they could under the circumstances."

"I'm absolutely convinced of Mike's innocence and I think the appeal process will bring that out," Mr. Raynak said.

Defense attorneys have said that the transgressions were minor, that many others in the Capitol used state resources similarly and that the defendants, all Democrats, were singled out by Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for governor.

They continued to make that case to reporters after Monday's verdict.

"When there are 139 charges and only 22 convictions, that says something about what this case was really about. It was a political prosecution," said Mr. Walk, who represented Mr. Cott.

The verdict came after six weeks of testimony and seven days of deliberation that sometimes turned so contentious that it brought jurors to tears.

Monday night, though, the tears -- mostly joyful -- belonged to the defendants and their supporters who raced to the courtroom as they were notified shortly before 8 p.m. that a verdict was forthcoming.

Mr. Keefer's sister, Debbie Long of Jonestown, had been in the shower when the call came. She dressed quickly and headed to Harrisburg to hear her brother exonerated of criminal charges that she said have dogged him for three years.

Mr. Veon's wife, Stefanie, also was crying in the courtroom, although her husband showed no emotion.

Judge Richard Lewis thanked the jury for "service that was nothing short of extraordinary. For the last seven weeks you were involved in almost nothing but this case. We owe you a giant debt of gratitude."

Tracie Mauriello: or 1-717-787-2141. Tom Barnes: or 1-717-787-4254. First Published March 23, 2010 4:00 AM


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