Wecht's private correspondence handled on county time, aide says
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Former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht's administrative assistant said he had her type dozens of letters related to his personal business on county time -- including solicitations for pathology work, fund-raising inquiries for political campaigns and thank-you notes to contributors.
But Kathleen McCabe said one letter she typed for him, in particular, embarrassed her.
In that one, sent to a private citizen in response to a letter to the editor the man sent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dr. Wecht wrote, on Allegheny County stationery:
"When I am testifying as an expert witness in major cases around the country; appearing on national television and radio shows; lecturing at major universities; writing books; accepting honors and accolades from various organizations; and making a hell of a lot of money, I have found that I am able to enhance and sustain the substantial pleasures and great joy that accompany such endeavors and accomplishments by thinking of insignificant assholes like you."
"Did it embarrass you to type this letter?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Stallings.
"Yes," Ms. McCabe responded.
He then showed the jury a note from Dr. Wecht's son, David.
"Dad, great letter, but not on county stationery," he wrote.
Ms. McCabe, the chief administrative assistant for what is now the Allegheny County medical examiner's office, will continue her testimony on direct examination today.
She spent hours going over dozens of letters that she typed for Dr. Wecht, explaining how there were different types of letterhead she used -- one for Dr. Wecht's private business, one for the Allegheny County coroner's office and one for Dr. Wecht as the Allegheny County coroner.
In one letter sent to former Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio, Dr. Wecht thanked him for organizing a fund-raiser for him when he was running for county chief executive. In others, he asked for donations to one of his son's runs for public office. David Wecht is now a judge in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
Mr. Stallings showed the jury a Nov. 13, 2002, memo Dr. Wecht sent to the five forensic pathologists working in the coroner's office, in which he chastised them for procrastinating.
"None of you should be overburdened with cases. As all of you know, I have no problem whatsoever with any of you doing extracurricular work. Indeed, I encourage you to do this, both for financial and professional reasons," he wrote.
"However, you must understand that your primary duties and responsibilities relate to this office, and the major components of these duties relates to the performance of autopsies and the prompt completion of the final and official autopsy reports."
Dr. Wecht is charged with 41 counts of mail and wire fraud and theft from an organization receiving federal funds. The government has accused him of using his county office for private gain.
Testimony in the case yesterday morning was brisk. The government called six witnesses, including a woman who formerly owned a McKeesport travel agency.
One of the prosecution's allegations against Dr. Wecht is that he manufactured fake travel invoices to increase the fees he charged his private clients.
June Stimmel, who owned Mercur-Lombardo Inc., which closed in 1999, testified that some 20 travel invoices Dr. Wecht submitted to his private clients did not come from her company, even though the travel agency's name was on the paperwork.
First Published February 7, 2008 12:00 am