Ex-Pa. lawmaker Mike Veon sentenced to 6-14 years in prison in corruption case

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Mike Veon, once an influential power broker in the Pennsylvania Legislature, was sentenced to at least six years in prison Friday for his role in a scheme that used taxpayer resources for election campaigns and paid bonuses to state employees who helped Democrats win control of the House of Representatives four years ago.

Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis sentenced Veon to a term of six to 14 years and ordered him to pay $100,000 in restitution and $37,000 in fines.

The judge denied Veon's request for bail. He was taken initially to the Dauphin County Prison in Harrisburg, then transferred to the nearby state prison in Camp Hill for processing, said the county prison warden, Dominick DeRose.

Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, who ran Veon's former district office in Beaver Falls, received a 3- to 6-month jail term and two years' probation and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution. She was granted $25,000 bail pending an appeal.

The judge told Veon his actions constituted "a clear and damning violation of the public trust" and "a flagrant and glaring abuse of power" that subverted the electoral process and damaged the reputation of the Legislature.

Lewis said Perretta-Rosepink violated the law by recruiting volunteers for Veon's and other legislative campaigns, conducting ongoing political fundraising on state time and personally profiting from the illegal bonuses.

Still, she did not instigate or play a central role in any of the illegal activity, the judge said.

Both defendants spoke in court. They apologized for breaking the law, but said their misdeeds should be measured against the long hours they worked and the good things they did for constituents.

"I had an unusual, incredible work ethic that I'm extremely proud of," Veon said.

"Obviously, there are many things I would do differently ... if I had the opportunity to do them again," he said. "What I did was with the right ideals in mind."

Perretta-Rosepink's 72-year-old mother tearfully told the judge she needed her daughter's help transporting her stepfather to chemotherapy and other medical appointments.

"All I ever wanted to do was help my community," said Perretta-Rosepink, who worked for Veon since shortly after she got out of college.

Attorneys for Veon and Perretta-Rosepink said they plan to appeal the sentences, and Veon's lawyers filed an emergency petition with the state Superior Court in an attempt to get him freed on bail pending his appeal.

Veon's conviction on 14 counts of conspiracy, theft and conflict of interest was the first among five current or former lawmakers charged so far in the ongoing investigation that state Attorney General Tom Corbett launched in early 2007. Corbett is also the 2010 Republican nominee for governor.

A dapper dresser with a cocky demeanor who wore cowboy boots and rode motorcycles, Veon was once the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. He served in the House for 22 years before voters ousted him in 2006 — the same year the party reclaimed a majority there for the first time in 12 years.

Both defendants' sentences called for substantially shorter periods of incarceration than state prosecutors had sought.

"It was clear that the judge was thoughtful as to each individual sentence," said Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo, a member of the team that prosecuted Veon. "It's not an easy job that the judge has."

Prosecutors said neither defendant showed genuine remorse for their actions.

"They were trying to put themselves in the best light," Costanzo said. "Neither of them wanted to talk about what they did. Neither of them wanted to explain why they did it. Neither of them want to specifically say they were sorry for the specifics of what they did."

Veon lawyer Dan Raynak said he also will appeal Veon's conviction on grounds that include his long-standing assertion that Veon's prosecution was politically motivated.

"Mr. Corbett wanted to get elected and I think that he used Mike Veon as a stepping stone," Raynak said.

Twenty-five current or former legislators and aides have been arrested in the investigation. Of the dozen cases decided so far, 10 have resulted in criminal convictions or guilty pleas.