DeWeese presses appeal before Superior Court panel
HARRISBURG — An attorney for convicted former state Rep. Bill DeWeese told an appellate court panel the trial judge undercut his defense by limiting the number of witnesses who testified.
Camp Hill lawyer William Costopoulos told the three-judge Superior Court panel that Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover wrongly barred about 20 people from testifying about a DeWeese directive warning House staffers to confine any political work to their personal time.
If he wins the appeal, DeWeese would get another trial.
DeWeese, 63, of Waynesburg was a longtime House Democratic leader and is serving a 2 1⁄2– to 5-year prison term for illegally using public employees and resources for political purposes.
Amy Zapp of the state Attorney General’s Office said judges can set reasonable limits on the number of witnesses and that jurors who convicted DeWeese heard testimony about the directive more than a dozen times during his trial.
DeWeese resigned the day he was sentenced in April 2012, and that same day voters nominated him to run for another term. He tried to remain on the ballot for the November election, arguing that he was pursuing appeals, but Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley ruled that his five felony convictions barred him from holding public office under the state constitution.
DeWeese testified before a grand jury and at trial. He admitted before the grand jury that an aide, Kevin Sidella, did campaign fundraising outside his Capitol office. Prosecutors used that testimony against him at trial.
DeWeese threatened to fire state workers who would not campaign for him, prosecutors said. His former top campaign aide, Sharon Rodavich, who held a state job in DeWeese’s office, struck a plea bargain with prosecutors and testified against DeWeese.
DeWeese maintained his innocence even after the verdict. He told reporters he would have fared better with a Western Pennsylvania jury; he had tried unsuccessfully to move the trial from Harrisburg to Greene County.
DeWeese gave up a state pension valued at $2.8 million upon his conviction. A former Marine Corps lieutenant, he is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Luzerne County.
The Associated Press and Trib Total Media staff writer Brad Bumsted contributed.