A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court has affirmed the sentence handed down
to a former aide to disgraced jailed ex-state Rep. Mike Veon, who was caught up in the public corruption probe dubbed “Bonusgate.”
Anna Marie Perretta-Rosepink had been sentenced by a Dauphin County judge in June 2010 to three to six months in state prison plus a year of probation.
The sentence followed Perretta-Rosepink’s conviction on two counts of conflict of interest and theft of services, and one count of conspiracy to commit conflict of interest.
The conviction – Perretta-Rosepink had been tried alongside Veon and two other co-defendants – came after a six-week jury trial.
The defendants had been charged with using taxpayer money for Democratic Party campaign purposes.
Veon, the former Democratic whip of the House, represented a district in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Perretta-Rosepink, who was in charge of Veon’s district office, had been swept up in the Attorney General’s Office’s “Bonusgate” investigation, which got its name from the bonuses staffers were paid in exchange for their doing political campaign work.
At trial, Peretta-Rosepink was acquitted of numerous offenses but convicted on the conflict of interest, theft of services and conspiracy counts.
On appeal, Peretta-Rosepink argued that the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss/post-sentence motion to set aside verdict because competent evidence was presented and un-rebutted that employees in Veon’s district office were not subject to a “regular schedule” and thus the “regular workday” could not be defined.
She also argued that the court erred in permitting prosecutors to violate a six-week standing order to provide evidence to the defense no less than 48 hours prior to each witness’s testimony, that the court erred in denying Peretta-Rosepink’s demurrer to the theft charges at the close of the case where the specific theft of services statute does not include the commonwealth within the definition of “victims” of theft of services and that the court erred in denying Peretta-Rosepink’s request to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the conduct and conversations jurors had during their supposed unauthorized trip to the capitol building in Harrisburg during trial.
The Superior Court panel ended up shooting down all of Peretta-Rosepink’s appeals arguments.
The panel wrote that there is no doubt Peretta-Rosepink violated state law when she obtained a bonus of taxpayer money solely for work related to Veon’s reelection campaign.
“Thus, she used her employment for private financial gain,” the judges wrote. “Appellant’s convictions for conflict of interest and conspiracy to commit conflict of interest are therefore not infirm.”
The appeals panel also rejected Peretta-Rosepink’s contention that she should have been granted a demurrer on the theft of services charges because the commonwealth cannot be considered a victim under the state statute.
“There is no limitation on the type of entity or person who can be a victim,” the opinion states. “It would be an unreasonable interpretation of the theft of services statute to allow a public employee of the Commonwealth or a local authority to commit this crime with impunity. We simply refuse to graft language onto the provision that is not present.”
As for Peretta-Rosepink’s argument that the court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing regarding jury misconduct, the panel again shot down the defendant’s argument, writing that the trial court’s reasoning for this denial was “unassailable.”
“The building wherein certain activities occurred was entirely peripheral to the facts pertinent to the crimes in question,” the ruling states. “The viewing of the building did not expose the jurors to any information pertinent to Appellant’s guilt that had not already been outlined by the witnesses. There was nothing emotional or inflammatory viewed by the jurors.”
This post-trial argument had to do with the fact that the trial court had discovered after trial that certain jurors had traveled to the state capitol building in Harrisburg to view a room mentioned during the course of the trial.
Specifically, one juror had written in a blog that the jury members had wanted to see Room 626, “which was talked about so much during the trial,” according to the trial transcript.
The juror then mentioned in his blog that while he and the others never made it to the room in question, they did see a portrait on the wall depicting former state Rep. Bill DeWeese, another legislator currently serving prison time for a conviction related to the “Bonusgate” scandal.
The blogger described the photo as “very creepy.”
In her appeal, Peretta-Rosepink claimed that the act had unfairly prejudiced her.
The Superior Court panel, however, agreed with the trial judge that the conduct in question did not warrant the granting of a new trial.
“The jurors did observe the portrait, which was described as “creepy,” of one of the figures in the scheme, DeWeese,” the appellate opinion states. “However, as the trial court aptly observed, ‘any sense of menace it may have instilled could well have bolstered Defendant’s theory of the case that Mr. DeWeese was the sinister architect of the bonus scheme.
“As the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the crime scene viewed by the jury did not prejudice Appellant as a matter of law, we affirm its decision to deny Appellant an evidentiary hearing.”
The opinion was written by Judge Mary Jane Bowes. Joining in the decision was Judge Paula Francisco Ott and Senior Judge Eugene B. Strassburger III.