HARRISBURG -- Former longtime House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese has appealed the felony convictions from a case in which he was accused of directing his staff to do political work on state time.
DeWeese, a onetime House speaker from Waynesburg, was sentenced to serve at least 21/2 years in prison for convictions of theft, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest.
In a court filing Tuesday, DeWeese presented numerous reasons the court should overturn his convictions. He argued that the trial court abused its direction in limiting the number of defense witnesses; that the court had been wrong to not tell the jury that workers may do campaign work during the legislative day if it is on approved leave time; and that the Pennsylvania law governing conflicts of interest violates the free speech guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.
"It was never the legislative intent to criminalize campaign/fundraising work from the offices of state legislators," DeWeese and his attorney say in the filing.
They also argue that the court based its order that DeWeese repay more than $116,000 on "highly speculative testimony" of employees trying years later to remember time spent campaigning.
Spokesman Nils Frederiksen said the office of attorney general would not comment on the appeal.
On April 24, DeWeese received his prison sentence and resigned the seat he had held since winning a special election in 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 Greene County Commissioner Pam Snyder, who won the seat in November.
The case against DeWeese grew out of a multi-year investigation into the use of government funds for political purposes.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-2141.