HARRISBURG — Bill DeWeese, a onetime Pennsylvania House speaker who was found to have used state employees for political purposes, could leave prison as early as today.
After 22 1/2 months, the Greene County Democrat is eligible for parole, though reporting requirements mean his release could be delayed until Sunday, said William Costopoulos, his attorney.
"The indications are there he's going to be getting out sometime this weekend," Mr. Costopoulos said.
DeWeese, 63, was convicted in 2012 on corruptions charges that included theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy. Prosecutors said he compelled legislative workers to campaign, using more than $100,000 of staff time and other state resources for his political benefit.
He was sentenced in April of that year and resigned from the seat he had held since 1976.
It was also the day of the state primary elections, and DeWeese, unopposed on the Democratic ballot in the 50th District, received more than 3,000 votes. He was later replaced by Democratic Greene County Commissioner Pam Snyder, who won the seat in November.
DeWeese served as speaker of the House of Representatives for one legislative session, in 1993 and 1994, and then was minority leader though 2006. He was majority leader in 2007 and 2008. DeWeese was sentenced to a minimum of 21/2 years but was eligible as a first-time, nonviolent offender for a 25 percent reduction, Mr. Costopoulos said.
Jeff Coleman, who was a Republican state representative when he befriended DeWeese, visited the former lawmaker Thursday at SCI Retreat in northeastern Pennsylvania.
"He's obviously been enriched by the whole experience," Mr. Coleman said. "The words that repeatedly he talks about is being blessed and being thankful. That came up again and again in a lot of different ways.
"For Bill DeWeese today the size of the kindness isn't really the issue," he said. "It's not about moving big pieces of legislation or where your portrait is going to be hung. It's something as simple as someone giving you a spot in the haircut line. Those are the kind of simple everyday graces that he's expressed thanks for."
The former legislator plans to spend time with his elderly mother and family, Mr. Coleman said.
"I don't sense any huge urgency to hop on anyone's payroll," he said. "This experience is so significant and transforming I think to see him walk into a traditional political shop somewhere wouldn't match the moment."
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-2141.