By Tracie Mauriello Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- A lunchtime side trip to the Capitol could have affected the verdict in the Bonusgate government corruption case, a defense attorney claimed in a court motion asking for a mistrial.
Attorney Michael Palermo, who represents Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, filed the motion yesterday, three days after his client was convicted along with former state Rep. Mike Veon and former legislative aide Brett Cott.
It is improper for jurors to view places related to crimes they are adjudicating unless under "the security and protection of the court," Mr. Palermo wrote in his motion.
The visit came to his attention in a blog entry juror Jonathan Smith posted Tuesday, the day after the verdict. In it, Mr. Smith indicated that he and jurors visited the Capitol during a lunch break in the middle of the testimony phase of the seven-week trial.
"After all, the Capitol was at the center of this whole case. We wanted to see this place. Actually, we wanted to see room 626, which was talked about so much during the trial," he wrote.
The jurors never made it to room 626, which had been described as a de facto campaign office complete with machines for folding election literature.
Reached by phone this morning, Mr. Smith confirmed he wrote the blog post but declined to comment on it.
On the social networking site Twitter, though, he had this to say: "Mistrial because I walked through a building paid for by my tax dollars? Come on."
Mr. Palermo called the jurors' lunchtime visit "especially egregious" and said it renders the verdict unconstitutional.
Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis gave the prosecution two weeks to respond.
Prosecutors are confident Judge Lewis will uphold the guilty verdicts, said Kevin Harley, spokesman for the attorney general.
Jurors Monday found Mrs. Perretta-Rosepink guilty of five criminal counts, Mr. Veon guilty of 14 and Mr. Cott guilty of three. A fourth defendant, Stephen Keefer, was acquitted.
They are among 25 people charged in the wide-ranging government corruption probe known as Bonusgate. The investigation involves allegations that lawmakers and staffers used state money and other public resources to run political campaigns.