Judge throws out evidence in Wecht case
Share with others:
The federal judge who took over the case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht issued a 55-page opinion this afternoon that could conceivably end the entire prosecution.
U.S. District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin threw out evidence seized during the execution of two search warrants that was essential to the government's case. Requests by Dr. Wecht's defense team to suppress the warrants -- one for the search at Dr. Wecht's private offices on Penn Avenue and another for a laptop used by his administrative assistant -- were both granted.
Dr. Wecht was originally indicted in January 2006 on 84 counts related to misusing his public office for private gain. His first trial, which began in January 2008, ended with a hung jury. The prosecution immediately announced it would retry him. However, Dr. Wecht's attorneys filed a number of appeals. Though the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not dismiss the case, it did appoint a new judge to oversee it. The court found that all parties would benefit if U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab were removed.
In January, Judge McLaughlin, newly appointed to the case, held a day-long hearing to listen to arguments from both sides. Several weeks later, he heard additional argument before finally issuing his decision today.
Dr. Wecht and his attorneys will hold a news conference at 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the decision.
The U.S. attorney's office is reviewing the opinion and said it will determine the appropriate course of action, said spokeswoman Margaret Philbin.
First Published May 14, 2009 5:26 pm