State Sen. LeAnna Washington requests change of venue for corruption trial

By Jim Boyle | Aug 20, 2014

Attorneys for State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-4) will appear before a Montgomery

County judge next week to argue for their motion to change the venue for the senator's corruption trial to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The motion states that the bulk of the witnesses and alleged illegal behavior occurred in Philadelphia and the the venue change would be appropriate. Washington's lawyers will make their case before Judge Steven O'Neill on Aug. 28.

Washington has been charged by the Attorney General's office with illegally using her government office to coordinate fundraising for her election campaign. The 69-year-old lawmaker has offices in Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

In March, a grand jury found that Washington, through intimidation and verbal abuse, directed senate staff to perform campaign work even though staff knew what they were doing was against the law and that they had an obligation to report such activities.

The alleged activities center around Washington using state-paid employees and equipment at her district offices to organize an annual political campaign birthday fundraiser, which one former staff member described as a "grand, gala event" held in late July to coincide with the senator's birthday.

Washington allegedly hid the activities from staff who expressed concern over the practices they knew to be wrong, going so far as to issue salary cuts and fire staff who disagreed with the activities, according tot he attorney general's office.

The grand jury said some senate staff members devoted almost all of their time in the weeks and months leading up to the fundraiser maintaining databases for fundraising invitations and events; creating campaign fundraiser invitations; printing thousands of campaign fundraiser invitations; stuffing and stamping the envelopes for campaign fundraisers; and listing campaign contributions and expenditures to send to Washington's campaign treasurer.

In addition, the grand jury learned that signs and posters for the political fundraiser were printed at the Senate Graphic Design Department located in Harrisburg, as well as congratulatory signage celebrating family milestones and other marketing materials for Washington's campaign activities.

The monetary loss to Pennsylvania is believed to range from at least $30,000 to in excess of $100,000.

Washington is charged with one count of theft of services, a felony of the third degree that carries a maximum term of seven years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $15,000. She also is charged under the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act with one count of violation of the conflict of interest statute, a felony that carries a maximum term of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.

If convicted of all counts, Washington faces a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000.

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