Feese gets 4-12 years in corruption case
HARRISBURG -- Brett Feese, a one-time local prosecutor who became a rising Republican star in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was sentenced Friday to four to 12 years in state prison and fined $25,000 for his role in a state corruption scandal.
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis also ordered the former Lycoming County lawmaker to pay $1 million in restitution and serve two years of probation.
Mr. Feese, 57, was among 25 people connected to the House GOP and Democratic caucuses who were arrested after a five-year investigation of the Legislature by the state attorney general's office.
A Dauphin County jury convicted Mr. Feese of all 40 counts in a case that involved the misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars by hiring out-of-state consultants and diverting legislative employees to develop customized computer software to help elect more Republicans to the Legislature.
The judge said he was impressed by Mr. Feese's involvement in charitable causes and the many people who attested to his good character, but that the actions for which he was convicted constituted "a flagrant violation of public trust."
While Mr. Feese was not an architect of the scheme, "arguably, he should have known better," Judge Lewis said.
Jill Seaman, Mr. Feese's co-defendant and former legislative aide, was convicted on identical charges of theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest, hindering apprehension and obstruction. Ms. Seaman was sentenced last month to nine to 23 months in a county jail work-release program.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor, said he was satisfied with the verdict.
"We're gratified by the work of the jury and the message that our public officials should not be using the people's resources for personal and campaign purposes," he said.
Mr. Feese's lawyer, Joshua Lock, said he considered his client's sentence harsh but fair.
Mr. Feese was released after the hearing. The judge ordered him to report Feb. 28 to begin serving his prison term.
Mr. Lock said he would file notice of a planned appeal Monday. The judge rejected Mr. Lock's request that Mr. Feese be allowed to remain free on bail pending the appeal to Superior Court.
In comments after the judge sentenced Mr. Feese, Mr. Lock and Mr. Fina verbally sparred after Mr. Lock suggested that prosecutors improperly destroyed statements by some witnesses who testified before a grand jury in the case. Mr. Fina called the allegations of misconduct "completely baseless" and said Mr. Lock was exaggerating the facts.
Mr. Feese, who served six terms representing his House district in north-central Pennsylvania, and Ms. Seaman were convicted in November after a six-week trial.
They were the only Republicans to stand trial among the 25 people who have been arrested since the state attorney general's office began investigating the Legislature in early 2007, while Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was the attorney general.
Mr. Feese is a former Lycoming County district attorney who was elected to the House in 1994.
His political fortune soared in 2002, after then-House Speaker John Perzel tapped him as chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, the caucus' political arm. He became caucus chairman that same year, was promoted to majority whip in 2003 and named chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in 2004.
In 2007, after he left the Legislature and as the investigation was heating up, he was hired as the caucus' chief counsel.
Mr. Perzel, a Philadelphia Republican who prosecutors say was the ringleader of the scheme, was one of seven GOP defendants who pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Mr. Feese and Ms. Seaman were each convicted on 38 counts of conspiracy, theft and conflict of interest, plus one count each of hindering apprehension and obstruction.
First Published February 11, 2012 12:00 am