Feese guilty of 40 counts
HARRISBURG – A once-powerful former state Republican lawmaker from Lycoming County and Mill Creek Township was convicted last Tuesday in a corruption case focusing on the illegal use of millions of taxpayer dollars and state employees for political campaign work.
Former Rep. Brett Feese, a onetime House Republican Campaign Committee chair, was found guilty of all 40 charges against him. Prosecutors said Feese was involved in hiring out-of-state consultants with public money and diverting legislative employees to work on voter-information databases and other high-tech tools to help elect more Republicans to the Legislature.
Jill Seaman, Feese’s former legislative aide and co-defendant, was convicted on identical charges in the scandal, which also ensnared a former House speaker.
The lead prosecutor, Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, said he hopes the unanimous verdicts would have an impact in the Legislature.
“I sure hope the message is getting delivered over there – that they’re there for the best interest of the people, and the best interest of the people only, and they should not be using the money of the people for personal efforts,” Fina said.
Feese’s lawyer said an appeal is inevitable, while Seaman’s attorney did not rule out that possibility.
“I’m not guilty,” Feese said as he left the courthouse with his wife and lawyer.
The jury of six men and six women reached their verdicts after deliberating for a week following five weeks of testimony.
Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis tentatively set sentencing for Jan. 9.
Two jurors said the unanimous convictions reflected the strength of the state’s case.
Lanthus Whiteside, 41, told The Associated Press that jurors took their time to make sure they asked the right questions and made the right decisions.
“It’s a lot of evidence, a lot of pieces of paper,” said Whiteside, who works for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Most of the testimony came from prosecution witnesses who either were granted immunity from prosecution or had agreed to plea bargains that required their cooperation in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges.
After Perzel tapped him as chairman of the House GOP campaign committee in 2002, his political fortune soared – from becoming caucus chairman in 2002, to majority whip in 2003 to chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee in 2004. In 2007, after he left the Legislature and as the investigation was heating up, he was hired as the caucus’ chief counsel.
Feese and Seaman each were convicted on 38 counts of conspiracy, theft and conflict of interest, plus one count each of hindering apprehension and obstruction.
Feese is a former Lycoming County district attorney. He has also served as solicitor for various townships in the area including Wolf Township and Muncy Creek. As of last week, he has resigned from these positions.