A state appellate court judge has ruled that former state Rep. Bill DeWeese, who is
currently in prison following a conviction on public corruption charges, cannot appear on November’s election ballot.
The decision late last week by Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley comes after attorneys for the state Democratic Party and three registered voters challenged DeWeese’s place on the upcoming ballot.
This past April, DeWeese had secured a primary election win despite the fact that he was heading to state prison after being found guilty of using public money and state resources for campaign purposes.
The Democratic Party had urged McGinley to rule in their favor so they could move forward on finding another candidate to replace the disgraced former legislator on the upcoming election ballot.
DeWeese, 62, a Democrat who formerly represented the 50th State House District southwestern Pennsylvania, is not eligible to hold public office after being found guilty of felony counts under the commonwealth’s constitution, the party’s attorneys argued.
McGinley agreed, despite protests by a lawyer for DeWeese, who asserted it would be premature for DeWeese’s name to be removed from the ballot before appeals on his conviction go forward, according to media reports.
DeWeese had resigned his state House seat during primary election day last April, the very day voters re-nominated him for another term.
In his memorandum and order, which was filed Aug. 10, McGinley wrote that DeWeese’s criminal conduct and conviction have rendered him ineligible to hold public office.
McGinley also wrote that the former legislator’s prison sentence will span the entire term of the elected position and, if in fact he won the general election, his felony convictions would indeed bar him from holding office.
“In order to effectuate a ‘free and equal’ election, this Court must construe DeWeese’s criminal conviction, sentencing, and incarceration as an effective withdrawal and the Democratic Party is permitted to substitute a viable Democratic candidate in the November 2012 general election,” the ruling states, a copy of which was provided to the Pennsylvania Record by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The ruling further authorizes Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele to certify a substituted nominee for the 50th House District as soon as a candidate has been selected by the state Democratic Party.
DeWeese was convicted in mid February of this year on five felony corruption charges, including conspiracy, conflict of interest and theft for using public resources for political purposes.
He was sentenced on April 24 to two and a half to five years in prison; DeWeese won re-nomination during the primary election that very same day.
Aichele unofficially certified DeWeese as the Democratic candidate for state representative on June 20, according to the court ruling.
DeWeese has since appealed his criminal conviction.