Former Democratic state Rep. Bill DeWeese, who served five days in jail on corruption charges before he was released Friday night, could return to a correctional institution as early as this week, unless a judge decides to let him out pending an appeal.
A ruling handed down by the state Superior Court Friday night gave Dauphin County Common Pleas Judge Todd Hoover seven days to rule on whether DeWeese must begin serving his 21/2- to 5-year prison sentence or may remain out of prison while he appeals his conviction.
"It's a process," said William Costopoulos, the attorney representing DeWeese, "but it's one we have to pursue because there are no options."
DeWeese was convicted in February on five felony counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest after prosecutors said his legislative staffers were performing political duties while working their taxpayer-funded jobs.
Judge Hoover sentenced DeWeese on April 24 and his attorney filed a request two days later asking that DeWeese be allowed to remain out on bail while he appeals the conviction.
When Judge Hoover had not ruled on that request by May 9 -- six days before DeWeese was scheduled to report to the correctional facility -- Mr. Costopoulos asked the judge to delay the beginning of DeWeese's sentence until the judge ruled on whether he could remain out on bail pending an appeal. The judge denied that request.
On Friday, Mr. Costopoulos filed an emergency petition in the state Superior Court asking that the court allow DeWeese to be released from jail because "the lower court hasn't ruled on whether he can be out on bail pending an appeal and the failure to rule had the consequence of locking him up without a bail ruling," he said.
The state Superior Court granted Mr. Costopoulos' request in the afternoon and DeWeese left a correctional facility in Camp Hill about 8 p.m., accompanied by his girlfriend, the attorney said. DeWeese, who referred all questions to his lawyer, plans to remain in Dauphin County at least until the judge rules, Mr. Costopoulos said.
DeWeese has maintained his innocence since he was charged. He ran unopposed for re-election in a primary last month, but state law makes him ineligible to take office again unless an appeals court first overturns his convictions.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published May 20, 2012 12:15 AM