Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
The self-professed architect of a state House Republican scheme to pay for political campaign computer software with taxpayer dollars is headed for jail.
John Perzel has been sentenced to a prison term lasting two and a half to five years. The former state House Speaker was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution, as well as thousands of dollars in fines.
“I think the judge took everything into consideration, including his enormous good works. I really do,” said Perzel’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle.
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis ordered the sentence. Chief Deputy state Attorney General Frank Fina said it was made lighter due to Perzel’s decision last fall to cooperate with prosecutors.
“It really makes a big difference to step forward, plead guilty,” said Fina. “It leads to other people pleading guilty. It’s a good message in the future to politicians, number one, that shouldn’t be doing these things – should never be using the public’s money and resources for personal reasons.”
Six other House Republican aides involved in the taxpayer-funded campaign strategy were also sentenced this week. Perzel’s former chief of staff, Brian Preski, was the only one to receive jail time – two to four years – and was ordered to pay $1 million in compensation to the commonwealth.
The other defendants received sentences of probation, community service, and fines.
Fina would not comment on whether there would be additional prosecutions of members of the state Legislature by the Attorney General’s office. He noted that the maximum statute of limitation for charges stemming from the state’s 2006 investigation would be about 13 years, but statutes less than that vary.
“It depends on the crime involved. The crimes range from two-year statutes to five-year statutes, to extensions to 13 years,” said Fina. “It’s very fact-specific."
Photo: Former Republican state House Speaker John Perzel leaves the Dauphin County courtroom, followed by defense attorney Brian McMonagle.
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