HARRISBURG, PA—(AP) - Nine current Democratic state representatives may soon find themselves testifying in the public-corruption trial of one of their former colleagues, depending how the presiding judge rules after a courtroom debate Thursday.
Defense attorneys in the theft, conspiracy and conflict-of-interest trial of former Rep. Mike Veon and three ex-aides want to question the sitting lawmakers, as well as legislative staff aides.
House Republicans, but has not ruled on the House Democrats. Veon attorney Dan Raynak told Lewis on Thursday morning that the names of many people on the defense witness list had surfaced repeatedly during the five weeks of prosecution testimony.
He singled out Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, who was the caucus floor leader when Veon served as whip, the No. 2 position. "We've got contracts signed by Mr. DeWeese, we've got reimbursement slips signed by Mr. DeWeese, we've got e-mails," Raynak said. He also wants to call to the stand current state Democratic Reps. Joe Preston, Dan Frankel, David Levdansky, Marc Gergely, Mike Sturla, Jim Wancasz, Jake Wheatley and Majority Leader Todd Eachus.
Raynak also named four caucus lawyers, former Reps. Steve Stetler and Dan Surra, and about a dozen legislative aides.
Attorneys for House Democrats and the potential witnesses said the request could run afoul of the special constitutional protections given to the internal discussions of the Legislature.
The attorney general's office told Lewis the witnesses may also seek to exercise their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Prosecutor Christopher Carusone urged Lewis to issue clear guidelines about what the witnesses could be asked ahead of time. "What I predict is going to happen ... is that this trial is going to drastically slow down," Carusone said. "It's going to be very, very messy."
DeWeese and Stetler are currently awaiting trial on separate charges that are a result of the same investigation that led to charges against Veon and former aides Brett Cott, Steve Keefer and Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink.
The trial for Veon, Cott, Keefer and Perretta-Rosepink is in its fifth week in a Dauphin County courtroom. The defense case is expected to begin Friday.
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