Former Pa. House aide sues over corruption arrest

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HARRISBURG – A former Pennsylvania House Republican legislative aide sued Gov. Tom Corbett and six others Thursday for what he claims was malicious prosecution during an investigation into misuse of government resources for political campaigns.


John R. Zimmerman says he was unfairly portrayed as a criminal after charges were filed against him in 2009. They were dropped two years later.


Zimmerman alleges he was charged to prevent him from being a witness to help other defendants, to retaliate against him for supporting former House Speaker John Perzel and to balance the number of Republicans and Democrats being prosecuted.


“His name was dragged through the mud,” his lawyer, Devon Jacob, said Thursday. “The reality is he was forced to do a perp walk in front of the cameras.”


Corbett was attorney general when the legislative corruption began in January 2007, after news broke that lawmakers quietly handed out millions in bonuses to their aides.


The other defendants in Zimmerman’s suit are Linda Kelly, who Corbett nominated to take over as attorney general after he was elected governor, as well as three prosecutors and two investigators who worked on the Zimmerman case.


A spokesman for Corbett declined comment, as did the investigators. Kelly and the prosecutors did not return phone messages. Joe Peters, press secretary for the current attorney general, Kathleen Kane, declined comment, saying the office may have to defend Corbett.


Zimmerman, who now lives in Hummelstown, was charged in the investigation that focused on how House Republicans used state-paid computer resources to gain an advantage in campaigns. The former aide to House Republicans was charged with conspiracy, obstruction and hindering apprehension, accused of helping hide evidence.


The lawsuit claims that both the grand jury report that named him and the warrant for his arrest “were obtained by deceit, fraud, perjury and other corrupt means.”


“The defendants waited until the eve of Zimmerman’s trial to voluntarily dismiss the criminal charges against him because they knew that a trial would expose their malicious prosecution of Zimmerman and result in an acquittal,” Jacob wrote in the 36-page federal complaint.


Perzel, a longtime Republican power broker from Philadelphia, was among those convicted in the case. He is currently serving time in a state prison.


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