PITTSBURGH – Dr. Cyril Wecht, a county coroner who has consulted on deaths from Elvis Presley to JonBenet Ramsey, was indicted on federal charges of using government resources to further his private practice.
The 84-count indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of honest services and theft from the Allegheny County Coroner's Office, which he heads.
Three of his employees resigned last year as the federal investigation proceeded, and he had signed an agreement to resign from the $105,000-a-year post if he were indicted. Last April, FBI agents searched his office, seizing computers and his private files.
Wecht, 74, has said he is careful to not do private work on county time. He also said he has never been questioned about the private consulting work he has done for the decades he has held a government job.
He had been cleared of criminal charges in 1981 alleging he used his staff to do private work on county time while coroner. He also faced a related civil court order to repay $252,000 in that case, and eventually paid back $200,000 after a decade of litigation.
His defense attorneys, including former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, have said they met with federal prosecutors in recent weeks to try to negotiate a settlement.
Wecht consulted on cases including the death of Laci Peterson and was highly critical of the Warren Commission's findings in the President Kennedy assassination.
In the months preceding the O.J. Simpson homicide trial in 1994, Wecht became a frequent talk-show guest, conjecturing about the significance of blood samples and other evidence. He appeared on numerous news channels for that and other high-profile murder cases as a forensic pathology expert.
His testimony at the trial of Claus von Bulow may have helped acquit the Rhode Island socialite of charges he tried to kill his wife.
Recently, he helped Louisiana officials conduct autopsies of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Wecht was the elected county coroner from 1970 to 1980 and took office again in 1996. Earlier this month, he was appointed to a five-year term as the county's first medical examiner after the coroner's office was abolished under a government reform measure.
Wecht, who is also an attorney, teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.