PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Former state Rep. Bill DeWeese was released from prison Sunday after finishing his sentence for political corruption.
The Greene County Democrat was released from the state prison in Retreat in northeastern Pennsylvania at 7:20 a.m., said state prisons spokeswoman Christine McMillan. DeWeese was picked up by a family member, she said.
The 63-year-old former House speaker and minority leader was serving a 2½- to 5-year sentence for using public employees and taxpayer resources for political purposes. He was eligible for parole because as a first-time, nonviolent offender, he must serve only 75 percent of his minimum sentence.
DeWeese will be subject to special monitoring and restrictions until the end of his maximum sentence in 2017, according to the state parole board.
DeWeese, an ex-Marine who had a penchant for bow ties and a grandiloquent speaking style, served 35 years in the House, including many years in Democratic leadership and one term as speaker.
He was among 22 House lawmakers and staff members – 13 Democrats and nine Republicans – who were convicted or pleaded guilty to corruption charges as a result of an investigation by the state attorney general’s office that began in 2007.
A Dauphin County jury convicted DeWeese of conspiracy, conflict of interest and theft in February 2012 for using his position to persuade or force employees to illegally perform campaign work and misusing public resources for political purposes.
Judge Todd Hoover called DeWeese “the instigator” of illegal campaign activities in the House Democratic caucus. In April 2012, he sentenced DeWeese to prison, fined him $25,000 and ordered him to pay nearly $117,000 in restitution.
DeWeese kept his House seat for more than two months after he was convicted, deferring his resignation until the day he was sentenced because the constitutional ban on felons serving in the state Legislature is not triggered until a sentence is imposed.
Back in his Greene County district, voters nominated DeWeese for re-election in the April 2012 primary and he stayed on the ballot until a state judge ruled four months later that his conviction and imprisonment made him ineligible for re-election.
DeWeese’s official portrait hangs among those of other House speakers in a corridor on the main floor of the Capitol. It is not far from the portrait of John Perzel, a Philadelphia Republican who was charged in the same investigation, pleaded guilty to similar charges and was paroled from prison last month after serving a sentence identical to DeWeese’s.
Two former lawmakers convicted in the scandal – former Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, and former Rep. Brett Feese, R-Lycoming – remain in prison and will not be eligible for parole before June 2015, according to the parole board.