Members of both parties petition for end to Wecht case
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Thirty-three prominent local residents from both ends of the political spectrum have signed an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and local U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan asking them to drop the federal case against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.
Signing the letter were such prominent Republicans as Elsie Hillman, former congresswoman Melissa Hart and Jim Roddey, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party and the county's first chief executive. They joined a who's who of Democratic power brokers such as former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, ex-City Councilman Sala Udin, and county council members.
Dr. Wecht faces a retrial May 27 of 41 charges covering wire fraud, mail fraud and theft from an organization receiving federal funds. The first trial, which involved seven weeks of testimony and more than three weeks of jury deliberations, deadlocked last week. The judge declared a mistrial.
Dr. Wecht's defense team, which includes former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh, released the letter today.
Federal prosecutors have accused Dr. Wecht of breaking the law by misusing county resources while he served as coroner for private gain. They also allege that he bilked private clients. Dr. Wecht and his lawyers contend that the forensic pathologist, a Democrat, is being hounded by Ms. Buchanan, a Republican, as part of a political witchhunt.
"You brought your case to the people. The people have spoken. You have discharged your duty. Do not now summarily dismiss the findings of this jury, but rather dismiss the indictment," the letter said.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published April 16, 2008 11:54 am